Engaging Students to Inspire a Sustainable Water Future


On May 26, 2021, the City of San Luis Obispo partnered with students at Cal Poly’s Sustainable Utilities Research and Education (SURE) Program to discuss city-led efforts to improve water quality, enhance environmental health, support clean energy, and recover valuable water resources.


The virtual event was composed of a student-led panel discussion with local leaders, including the City’s Sustainability Manager Chris Read, Water Resource Program Manager Nick Teague, Water Resource Recovery Facility Supervisor Chris Lehman, Senior Scientist Shelley Blackwell, and Director at the Institute for Climate Leadership and Resilience Dr. Erin Pearse.


“The City, as an organization, has a responsibility to lead by example,” shared Sustainability Manager Chris Read, “Continued innovation, entrepreneurship, and commitment are needed to reach our community’s ambitious sustainability goals.”


The City’s Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) upgrades were among the projects recognized for their contributions to a sustainable water future.

The project utilizes advanced treatment technologies to deliver high-quality water back into the environment. The upgrades, scheduled for completion in 2023, will improve energy efficiency, protect vital infrastructure from natural disasters, and further enhance the City’s multi-source water supply into the future.


“We are rebranding traditional ‘wastewater’ treatment as an opportunity to recover resources in the form of water reuse, energy production, and nutrient retrieval,” shared WRRF Supervisor Chris Lehman.

The event was a part of an ongoing partnership between the City and Cal Poly’s SURE Program. Currently, the WRRF is hosting an onsite research center for students to collaborate on emerging research and pilot studies. “We continue to look for opportunities to add value to the community by providing space for young leaders to learn and share ideas”, stated Lehman.


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