Record-breaking drought conditions continue to make headlines in California. San Luis Obispo County in particular faces extreme drought conditions, as well as an unseasonably dry first nine months of the year. While most news about water in California is bleak, proactive planning by the City of San Luis Obispo over the past few decades has improved water resiliency, especially in times of drought.
Earlier this year, Governor Gavin Newsom released Executive Order N-7-22, outlining emergency conservation regulations affecting public water systems statewide and instructing state water agencies to consider adopting additional conservation measures. In turn, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted regulations that prohibit irrigating “non-functional turf” at commercial, industrial, and institutional sites, and prohibit residential irrigation between the hours of 7 am and 7 pm. Upgrades to the City’s existing Water Resource Recovery Facility (SLO Water Plus Project) are helping the City provide a more robust treatment process that will allow for potential direct and indirect potable reuse in the upcoming future. Recycled water is a key component of the City’s water supply portfolio, due in large part to its drought resiliency. When wastewater flows to the Water Resource Recovery Facility recycled water can be produced, regardless of stresses to drinking water sources such as drought. Using recycled water for irrigation helps offset and conserve potable water and reduces our dependence on surface water supplies. This provides the City with added resiliency when surface water supplies are strained.
In addition, upgrades to the City’s existing Water Resource Recovery Facility will enhance water quality, provide environmental benefits, improve system efficiencies, and mitigate flood hazards— all while freeing up infrastructure that can be repurposed for storage. The upgrade has been more than a decade in the making and supports current and future water demands as described in the City’s General Plan.
Through thoughtful water management, the City is prepared for current drought conditions and is actively planning for future resilient water supplies. By investing in advanced water treatment technologies now, the City will be well-positioned for potable reuse in the future. Potable reuse could augment existing water supplies by injecting recycled water into the local groundwater basin, supplementing the City’s water supply portfolio, and further enhancing our drought resiliency. The SLO Water Plus upgrade is another big step towards a resilient water future.