Project Overview

Imagine the Water Resource Recovery Facility in 2023 as a water production facility and engaging workplace with public education opportunities.  The Water Resource Recovery Facility Project (WRRF Project) will transform the Facility into this community asset.

second sign at frontage road entrance completed (2)
Pictured here is a handful of the dedicated WRRF staff. From left: Keith Powers, Marty Maloney, James Austin, Chris Lehman, Glen Lubak, Dave Wharton, Ernie Redman, and Tom Tingley.

Why are we upgrading the WRRF?

The upgraded WRRF will be a community asset that supports the health, well-being and quality of life of all those who live in and visit the City of San Luis Obispo.  The Facility will:

  • Maximize the production of recycled water;
  • Meet new waste discharge requirements;
  • Treat future flows and loads;
  • Replace and/or upgrade aging equipment; and
  • Incorporate on-site interpretive features and public amenities.

A water production facility

The WRRF treats water used by the City of San Luis Obispo, the Cal Poly campus, and the County Regional Airport.  After the water is treated by the WRRF, a portion is distributed to recycled water irrigation customers in the City and the rest is released into San Luis Obispo Creek.  The WRRF improvements will allow the City to produce more, higher-quality water for reuse by our community, and improve the health of the San Luis Obispo Creek ecosystem downstream of the WRRF.

What will the upgrades look like?

The following major plant upgrades will transform the WRRF and prepare it for the future:

  • Biological and solids removal process upgrades that will include the addition of new bioreactors and a new membrane bioreactor (MBR) system that will remove nutrients from the water and improve the water quality;
  • New UV disinfection system to destroy pathogens and eliminate production of disinfection by-products;
  • New solar energy generation systems to offset electricity use;
  • New Water Resource Center, including staff work spaces, shops, offices, and laboratory facilities;
  • New learning opportunities to inform and engage the community about resource recovery and the water cycle; and
  • New odor control system to improve the experience of working at and visiting the facility.

“The new UV system will be a win-win on a lot of different levels,” – Pam OuelletteChief Operator

Some “wins” of the UV system include:

  • Reduction in chemical usage at the WRRF;
  • Elimination of disinfection byproducts in treated effluent; and
  • Increase in operational control of the disinfection system.

What will the new process look like?

Process schematic for the proposed treatment process upgrades. Note the new nitrate-removing membrane bioreactor (MBR) and Ultraviolet (UV) disinfection system.

What’s guiding this transformation?

The Program Charter is guiding and shaping the project.  The Charter establishes a unified project vision and mission, as well as triple bottom line objectives and performance measures (Economic, Social, and Environmental) that serve as the filter and guide for project decision making and alternatives analyses.

What are the benefits of the upgrades?

The upgrades benefit the San Luis Obispo community in many ways. Day-to-day benefits of the project include increasing the safety, performance, efficiency and reliability of the entire facility.  The City’s dedicated plant operators are the ones responsible for transforming the community’s used water into a sustainable and valuable resource, and the WRRF Project will enhance their ability to do their job safely and effectively. Long-term, the WRRF Project will provide reliable compliance for some of the most stringent permit requirements in the country, while providing a high quality water resource that will benefit the environment and the community.

An engaging workplace

The project will provide a new Water Resource Center.  The Water Resource Center will welcome visitors and serve as “mission control” for the Facility.  The Water Resource Center will include a Welcome Center for visitors to the facility, the Operations Center and Water Quality Laboratory.  The Operations Center and Water Quality Laboratory are critical to reliability and compliance.  These upgrades will provide improved facilities for operations and lab staff to carry out their daily responsibilities.

A sustainable, high-quality water supply

Community-wide benefits include increasing the amount and enhancing the quality of recycled water produced, and thus expanding the sustainable and drought-proof water source we all benefit from. Recycled water use reduces the strain on the potable water supply and recycles a vital resource, which becomes even more important during times of drought.

The upgrades will also enhance the quality of water entering San Luis Obispo Creek – this has a few direct benefits to the community:

  1. Providing better quality habitat for the wildlife, such as steelhead trout, that depends on the creek
  2. Adding less salts and nutrients to the local groundwater basin
  3. Improving water quality in San Luis Obispo Creek for downstream beneficial uses

Education about how water cycles through both the natural and built environments will also benefit everyone by ultimately contributing to continued sustainable decision-making by the community.

How long will the upgrades take?

Substantial construction is estimated to be completed by 2021. We will provide updates about construction and more on the What’s New? page. You can also sign up for regular email updates about the project here. The Water Resource Recovery Facility will also be open during the upgrades for tours. Come check us out!