Education_Transparent Education is a major component of the Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) Project. This includes promoting the “One Water” concept which emphasizes the importance of thinking about water in a more holistic way that recognizes all water has value.

Have you noticed how the word “wastewater” is not used on this website (except right here)? This is because we don’t view used water as being waste – we see it simply as another step in the water cycle.

WRRF Operations and Maintenance Staff, 2017

No matter who we are, where we live, or what we do, water connects all of us.  When we embrace the belief that water in all its forms has value – water in our lakes, seas, rivers, streams, drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater – the full water life cycle can be optimized to build strong economies, vibrant communities, and healthy environments”– US Water Alliance

The US Water Alliance One Water Roadmap: The Sustainable Management of Life’s Most Essential Resource lists a series of hallmarks that highlight the One Water way of thinking:

All water has value.

One Water starts with the recognition that all water has an intrinsic value—the water in our reservoirs, rivers, lakes, seas, streams, and aquifers; the water we drink; the water used for food or energy production or for industrial needs; the water we waste through inefficiencies or send down the drain; and the water that runs off from our lands and farms. All water can and must be managed carefully to maximize its benefit.  Much of the water recycled at the WRRF is sent to local parks, so families can enjoy their favorite recreational activities on healthy green lawns. Not one drop is wasted!

Watershed management.

The WRRF sends over 1.6 million gallons of water each day to San Luis Obispo creek to help maintain steelhead habitat. Steelhead use the creek for natural reproduction, nursery habitat, and as a migratory corridor. When creek levels drop naturally during the hot summer months, water from the WRRF helps maintain flow in the creek, and therefore habitat, all the way to Avila Beach.

City Biologist Freddy Otte shows off Steelhead.


One Water recognizes that all sectors are part of the solution to a water-secure future. Partnerships and collaboration are the cornerstone to progress. The City of San Luis Obispo has partnered with Cal Poly by donating space and water for Cal Poly to conduct graduate-level research. This is just one example of the valuable partnerships the City engages in.

California Polytechnic State University (San Luis Obispo) Algae Project

Inclusion and engagement of all.

One Water leaders are committed to robust community engagement in planning, decision making, and water stewardship. City staff attend the local Farmer’s Market to answer questions about water, from source of supply to recycled water use. The WRRF also hosts tours – find out more below!


“School tours provided at the Water Resource Recovery Facility allow students a first-hand look at the [one] water cycle,” – Mike Di Milo, Science Discovery Program

WRRF Tour Led by Chief Plant Operator, Pam Ouellette
Looking at the beneficial microorganisms that help clean water at the WRRF.

The WRRF is committed to educating the community. Currently, over 1,000 visitors come to the WRRF each year – it’s quite a busy place! Visitors range from adults in the community to kids on field trips from local schools.  They all come to learn where their water goes and how the “magic” of water treatment happens. While on the tour, visitors embark on the journey with operations and laboratory staff who know the ins and outs of the facility. Treatment facility includes physical, chemical, and biological processes that “renew” the water, making it crystal clear and ready to send to San Luis Obispo Creek and recover for recycled water distribution around the City. After touring the facility, groups team up with laboratory analysts to get a look under the microscope. What better way to ensure the recovery of future resources than to educate the entire community?

Interpretive Experience

“Interpretation is an educational activity which aims to reveal meanings and relationships through the use of original objects, by first-hand experience, and by illustrative media, rather than simply to communicate factual information.” – Freeman Tilden

One of the most exciting parts of the WRRF Project is the opportunity for enhanced educational opportunities through the addition of interpretive features at the facility.  Visitors will be able to explore the dynamic cycle of our most precious resource, gain a deeper understanding of the treatment process, and better understand what it takes to ensure a water-secure future.

In the meantime, feel free to request a tour of this great facility anytime. Visit our “Tour the WRRF” page to show us your interest in visiting the WRRF today! We can’t wait to show you what water resource recovery is all about!

Chief Plant Operator Pam Ouellette answers questions about the WRRF upgrade at a Farmer’s Market outreach event in San Luis Obispo