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Recycled Water

The City is currently not issuing new recycled water meter permits for water trucks until the tertiary plant construction is complete (expected date: Fall 2015). In addition, when issuing permits, the City’s recycled water must be used at a property within the City water service, it cannot be used at a site in Montecito, Goleta, or farther.


What is Recycled Water?
Treated wastewater (secondary effluent) is sent through filters to produce recycled water. The filtration process removes very fine particulate matter and is called tertiary treatment. The recycled water system is differentiated from the drinking water system using purple color-coded pipes, meter boxes, and sprinklers and by having posted signage at all sites. Recycled water is used mainly for irrigation of landscaping at parks, schools, the zoo, golf courses, homeowners associations, and retirement homes. Additionally, some of the recycled water is used for dust control, soil compaction, and toilet flushing in public restrooms at sites irrigated with recycled water. Other possible uses are also being explored.

History of Recycled Water Project
After several dry years in the late 1970’s, and continued population growth in the City, analysis of the City’s water supply showed that additional water sources were needed. Recycled water was identified as a potential substitute for potable water for irrigation and other uses. In 1980, a study was conducted to determine the feasibility of using recycled water in Santa Barbara. The results of the study showed that recycled water for irrigation purposes was economically, technically, and environmentally feasible.

Funding for the Recycled Water Project
The City’s Recycled Water Project was developed in two phases. This allowed the funding of the project to be spread out over a greater period of time. Phase I was completed in July 1989, and Phase II was completed in May 1991. The total cost of the project was $15,200,000. To fund the project, the City received $7 million in low interest loans from the California State Water Resources Control Board. The remaining project costs were paid for with funds from revenue bond sales and cash reserves. The cost per acre foot of recycled water is approximately $1,200.

Why Use Recycled Water?
Every gallon of recycled water for irrigation saves a gallon of potable water that can be used in homes and businesses. Recycled water serves an important role in the diversity of the City’s water supplies. Recycled water is used at over 50 sites throughout the City, and the annual demand for recycled water is currently 750 acre feet–approximately 700,000 gallons per day. The City continues to expand the use of recycled water at existing sites, as well as identifying new sites and potential areas for expansion of the system.

Recycled Water Map

Last Updated: Nov 5, 2015