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.
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.
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.
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.
||Capacity (acre feet per year)
||Level of Treatment
||Recycled Water Uses
|Buellton Wastewater Treatment Plant||688-7547
|Carpinteria Sanitary District||684-7214 x.18
||treatment plant landscape irrigation
|Goleta Sanitary District and Goleta West Sanitary District||
||landscape irrigation, toilet flushing
|Laguna County Sanitation District||739-8750
|La Purisima Wastewater Treatment Plant||733-4366
||groundwater recharge; pasture/crop irrigation
|Lompoc Regional Wastewater Reclamation Plant||875-8405
||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
||landscape irrigation; toilet flushing
|City of Santa Maria Wastewater Treatment Plant||928-5022
||groundwater recharge; pasture irrigation
|Solvang Wastewater Treatment Plant||688-6997
|Summerland Sanitary District||969-4344