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El Estero Water Resource Center

COVID-19: Recycled Water & Treated Wastewater Remain Safe State Water Board Fact Sheet 

The El Estero Water Resource Center (El Estero) has provided environmental and health protection for the City of Santa Barbara for the last 100 years. El Estero is committed to protecting our environment and public health and safety by maintaining an efficient and effective facility.  

The El Estero Water Resource Center is a focal point in environmental protection for Santa Barbara, treating 6 million gallons of wastewater per day from homes and businesses, and safely recycling much of that for beneficial uses. On average, each person in the City contributes 50 gallons of water per day to the wastewater system. Each house or business has a pipe that is connected to a network of underground pipes and pump stations, which carry the wastewater to El Estero Water Resource Center. At El Estero, wastewater is treated using physical and biological processes.

At El Estero Water Resource Center, wastewater is treated and then either discharged safely into the ocean or reused for a variety of purposes. The wastewater undergoes a series of treatments to remove solids that are suspended or dissolved in the water. Multiple biological processes allows good bacteria to feed on and breakdown the organic material present and disinfection by chlorine is used to destroy bacteria. Through these processes, there are 4 end products produced at the facility:

  • Treated wastewater is mixed with brine from the desalination facility across the street, then released 1.5 miles offshore into the ocean.

  • Recycled water from our tertiary treatment plant is used to irrigate schools, parks, and other sites.

  • 4 tons of biosolids are produced every day which is composted and used at farms and parks as a nutrient-rich soil amendment.

  • And lastly, bio-gas generated in the treatment process in converted to electricity to offset 70% of the electrical needs at El Estero.

El Estero Water Resource Center is also home to our Water Resources Laboratory which performs water quality analysis of drinking water, wastewater, and creek and ocean water.

Contact Us

El Estero Water Resource Center:
(805) 568-1010
Sewer Lateral Inspection Program:
(805) 568-1032
Water Resources Lab:
(805) 568-1008
El Estero Tours:
(805) 897-2672   

Last Updated: Jan 29, 2021
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