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South SLO County governments team up to create new sustainable water supply for residents

Central Coast Blue pilot plant reverse osmosis filters
City of Pismo Beach
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Central Coast Blue pilot plant reverse osmosis filters

Pismo Beach, Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Oceano, and SLO County’s Sanitation District are planning to create a sustainable water supply for South SLO County residents through a project called Central Coast Blue. It aims to build a new treatment facility to recycle water.

“We all share the same groundwater basin, and we meet on a monthly basis for the management of that groundwater basin. So, it was just a natural extension of all the other work,” said Pismo Beaches’ Director of Public Works’ City Engineer, Ben Fine.

Fine said this project could potentially provide about a third of the area’s future water supply.

“Right now, we're in the design and permitting stage, so we've already done all the initial studies. We haven't gotten final permits, but we're in that permitting process as well as the design of the facility,” he said.

About $4 million has been used to fund this project so far, and Central Coast Blue also received a $14 million grant from the U.S. Department of Interior.

santa maria groundwater basin map
County of San Luis Obispo
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Map of the Santa Maria Water Basin that local agencies of south SLO County utilize.

Once the water reaches the wastewater treatment plant, the water will be treated and needs to stay in contact with the groundwater basin for 60 days. When that process is over, it can then be used as drinking water.

Fine said back in 2018 the organization held a pilot plant event where people could come by, check out the technology, and even taste test the water.

“The vast majority, almost 80 percent, said that the Recycled water tasted better. So as long as we have water coming into our wastewater treatment plant Central Coast Blue has water to treat,” Fine said.

He said as long as people take showers and water is going down the drain, the water will make its way to the treatment plant to go through the treatment process. Right now their biggest threat is saltwater intrusion, but Fine said they will also be creating a barrier to avoid that.

The project is expected to begin construction in 2023.

Gabriela Fernandez is a general assignment reporter at KCBX News. She graduated from Sacramento State with a BA in Political Science. During her senior year, she interned at CapRadio in their podcast department, and later worked for them as an Associate Producer on the TahoeLand podcast.