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SLO City officials looking to ramp up recycled water use

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Posted at 9:41 PM, Nov 18, 2022

Another project aimed at recharging groundwater supplies is in the works on the Central Coast.

The City of San Luis Obispo wants to expand the use of recycled water which could involve selling it to outside agencies.

The city wants to eventually pump purified wastewater back into the ground, but that won’t happen for at least eight years.

Currently, the city produces more recycled water than it uses so the city council is now looking at what to do with it in the meantime.

“Long term, we are really looking at how do we take that recycled water, inject it into the groundwater and make potable water going forward,” said SLO Mayor Erica Stewart.

The project would involve building an advanced treatment plant and injecting recycled water back into the ground near Elks Lane.

“All the cheap water is gone; all the easy water is gone. Anything we need to purchase in the future is not gonna be as cheap as the water we’ve gotten in the past. So, it’s important that we protect that supply for future generations of the community,” said SLO Utilities Deputy Director Mychal Boerman.

The city still needs to build the treatment plant and flush out chemicals that are in the groundwater right now.

That is expected to take at least eight years and the city is looking at ways use more recycled water in the meantime.

“It’s exciting and very nerve-wracking because I believe that we are stewards of the water here,” said Mayor Stewart, who adds that the city is entering uncharted territory.

The city is considering three options which include ramping up irrigation or delivering recycled water to farms with the goal of offsetting groundwater use.

A third option is selling recycled water for agricultural use at wineries in the Edna Valley or other areas on the outskirts of the city.

“This is an unreliable source even if it does work out because we have made it very clear that if in one year we can give surplus water, great. If in another year we can’t—that is what it is, it’s whatever will be surplus,” explained Mayor Stewart.

Some residents say they have concerns about parts of the plan but are in favor of building a more reliable groundwater supply.

“I’m not too happy about us giving our water away but eventually, I’m afraid it’s going to happen because of the state mandates,” said San Luis Obispo resident Terry Mohan. “Hopefully we’ll get some money for it. We’ve been paying for the Nacimiento pipeline for a long time and that’s all going for development.”

The city council could ultimately move forward with one or multiple options.

More meetings will be held in the future before any final decision is made.