Water Reclamation Facility Program
Environmental Engineering Project
The City of Morro Bay’s Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) Program, the largest public works project in City history, was completed ahead of schedule in fall 2022 despite design-build and design-bid-build projects primarily taking place from 2020 to 2022, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. This early completion meets the mandatory timeline from the Regional Water Quality Control Board for wastewater discharge permit requirements and California Coastal Commission requirements for the relocation of the City’s wastewater treatment plant.
After decades of planning, the City pursued and completed the WRF Program as a multi-benefit civil/environmental engineering project that provides the following key improvements: upgraded wastewater treatment to improve water quality and meeting regulatory requirements; relocation of a critical facility and infrastructure away from coastal and flood hazards; and the development of a more reliable and resilient water supply portfolio to mitigate against climate change impacts, extreme weather events and unprecedented droughts. The WRF Program consists of three primary elements, described below:
Water Resources Center (WRC) - A new water reclamation facility located outside of the tsunami inundation and the 500-year flood hazard zones, which includes full advanced treatment processes (i.e. membrane filtration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet/advanced oxidation treatment), to provide
the City with a sustainable and drought resilient water supply.
Conveyance Facilities – Three miles of parallel sewer force mains and two sewer lift stations to convey wastewater from the existing wastewater treatment plant to the WRC. Additionally, the alignment included a treated effluent discharge line to the City’s existing ocean outfall and an
advanced purified water for recycled water use.
Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) - Injection wells and recycled water pipelines to recharge the Morro Groundwater Basin (Morro Basin) with up to 825 acre-feet per year (AFY) of advanced purified water to increase recharge and create a barrier against seawater intrusion and reduce nitrate
In addition to the complex construction of both the WRC and the Conveyance Facilities components, the environmental and cultural mitigation measures to sensitive resources is a center focus of the Project. All planning and design efforts took into account mitigation measures outlined in the Program EIR. During construction all ground disturbing activities included cultural resources monitoring. Additionally, archeological, paleontological, and biological monitoring were performed during construction when activities occurred near sensitive areas. The City and the Program Team was in constant contact with permitting regulatory agencies during construction and continues to closely coordinate with said agencies during the planning of the IPR systems.
The WRF Program is estimated to cost ~$160 million (M) and is being funded primarily through Morro Bay water and sewer rates for the small community of approximately 10,000 people. To reduce the burden on its rate payers the City has financed the project through a combination of Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) low interest financing. The City received a $61.7M loan from WIFIA and $66.6 low interest loan from CWSRF. Additionally, the project has received $9.3M in United States Bureau of Reclamation Title XVI, $5M in CWSRF Loan Forgiveness and $1.2M in Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) grant funding.
By augmenting recharge in the Morro Basin with advanced purified recycled water, the City will be able to reliably access its groundwater supplies without the threat of seawater intrusion. Through implementation of the WRF Program, the City is the first in the State to relocate its wastewater
treatment facility away from coastal hazards that will be capable of providing a new sustainable, drought resistant water supply in the future.
The WRF Program provides the City with the capability for a future water supply that will be available regardless of future hydrologic conditions and enables the City to improve the resiliency of its water supply portfolio to mitigate against future droughts and State Water Project infrastructure failures.
Having this local, resilient supply will provide water security for the City, reduce its reliance on Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta imports, improve local groundwater quality, and improve regional water supply reliability and resilience.
Despite challenges of constructing the City’s largest public works program during a global pandemic, the City met the project timeline required by the state through innovative and collaborative delivery, a successful funding strategy and a dedicated team.