Wastewater refers to water that has been used and then released into the sewer. Wastewater can contain sewage, urban street runoff or industrial or agricultural waste products. For more information on wastewater science and related activities and resources within the county, click on one of the links below.

Wastewater Treatment
Reclaimed Water
Wastewater Treatment Plants
Web links 

Wastewater Treatment

There are several steps to the wastewater treatment process. Wastewater enters sewers and is then transported to the wastewater treatment plant, where it receives " primary treatment." This involves removing solids that settle to the bottom, as well as floating materials.

Next the water undergoes " secondary treatment," which removes solids that are suspended or dissolved in the water. During this treatment process, chemicals are added to disinfect the water before it is released into the ocean, neighboring river, other water body or spreading grounds. Most wastewater in Santa Barbara County is treated to this secondary level.

Finally, some treatment plants use " tertiary treatment," which filters and disinfects the water. If treated to this advanced level, wastewater (or "effluent") can be reused for such purposes as irrigation of pasture grasses, landscaping, and even some crops. Such reclaimed water is used for several purposes within the County of Santa Barbara.

What is Reclaimed Water?

Reclaimed water refers to wastewater that has been treated to the tertiary level and can be reused. Reclaimed water must meet rigorous water quality standards before it can be reused, with the standard depending on the type of use. The process of treating water to a high enough level so that it may be recycled is complex and somewhat expensive, so not all wastewater treatment plants can produce recycled water.

Three  wastewater treatment plants in the county, the City of Santa Barbara's El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Goleta Sanitary District, and the Lompoc Regional Wastewater Reclamation Plant, produce water that is directly reused in the community. The remaining treatment facilities in the county produce water that flows into ponds, which allow the water to percolate into the groundwater basin, or they release the treated wastewater into the ocean.

Wastewater Treatment Plants in Santa Barbara County

There are twelve wastewater treatment plants in the county. The table below contains a list of each of the plants and describes the level of treatment and the wastewater flow capacity of each plant. Most wastewater treatment plants are operated by public entities such as cities or the County. Several are special districts not affiliated with city or county operations.


Treatment Plant 
Capacity (acre feet per year) 
Level of Treatment 
Recycled Water Uses 
Buellton Wastewater Treatment Plant  688-7547
groundwater recharge
Carpinteria Sanitary District  684-7214 x.18
treatment plant landscape irrigation
Goleta Sanitary District and Goleta West Sanitary District 


blended secondary/tertiary
landscape irrigation, toilet flushing
Laguna County Sanitation District  739-8750
pasture irrigation
La Purisima Wastewater Treatment Plant  733-4366
groundwater recharge; pasture/crop irrigation
Lompoc Regional Wastewater Reclamation Plant  875-8405
advanced secondary
sewer line cleaning; dust control & compaction; city street tree irrigation
Montecito Sanitary District  966-2271
El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant (City of Santa Barbara)  897-1910
secondary/ tertiary
landscape irrigation; toilet flushing
City of Santa Maria Wastewater Treatment Plant  928-5022
groundwater recharge; pasture irrigation
Solvang Wastewater Treatment Plant  688-6997
groundwater recharge
Summerland Sanitary District  969-4344



Web Links

El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant (City of Santa Barbara)
Goleta Sanitary District
City of Santa Maria Wastewater Treatment Services
US EPA Office of Wastewater Management