After 10 years of planning and construction, the Los Osos Water Recycling Facility was completed in 2016 and the community gathered to celebrate this momentous occasion in April.
This project is a model for sustainable water reuse and conservation and includes almost 50 miles of pipelines and a water recycling facility capable of processing 1.2 million gallons of water per day for the community of Los Osos.
The small town of Los Osos historically lacked a sewer system and instead used septic systems for wastewater treatment and disposal. Over time, this resulted in pollution of the Morro Bay estuary and the community’s groundwater basin, which is their sole source of drinking water.
To address environmental concerns, the sewer project also includes a long-term habitat management program to restore habitats in 100 acres throughout Los Osos.
Prior to construction, Los Osos property owners overwhelmingly approved the project costs through Proposition 218 votes. While the brand new sewer system is a significant expense, costs were reduced by $22 million thanks to the County’s ability to secure grant funding and two long-term, subsidized, low-interest loans (2 percent for 30 years and 2.6 percent for 40 years).
All property owners serviced by this new wastewater system benefit from these savings, which are applied to the overall project costs for assessments and service charges. In addition, several options for financial assistance for low-income residents are available, thanks to existing State and Federal programs and newly developed County programs.
The entire community was invited to the new water recycling facility for a grand opening in April 2016, which began with a dedication ceremony, followed by a ribbon cutting ceremony and a reception with cake and refreshments. Attendees included members of the public; County District Supervisors; County staff; news media; Congresswoman Lois Capps; and representatives from California State Senator Bill Monning’s office, U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein’s office, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. All who attended were able to take a tour of the facility.
“This is a major milestone for the Los Osos community and for the County of San Luis Obispo,” said County District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson. “We are thrilled to move forward and keep the community and environment safe and healthy well into the future. This project was well worth the wait.”
Also in 2016, the 12-month process of connecting homes and businesses to the new sewer system began. By April 2016, about 5,000 homes and businesses were connected, serving a population of 12,000 residents. Wastewater in this service area is now being recycled for beneficial reuse and returned to the community for irrigation or percolation into the groundwater basin.
The County will continue to work with Los Osos residents and businesses to evaluate and develop the wastewater treatment system program, respecting community preferences and promoting participatory government, while also addressing individual affordability challenges to the greatest extent possible.