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El Estero to Rebrand as Water Resource Center

Santa Barbara's wastewater treatment plant preps for "toilet to tap" rules.

A rose by any other name might famously smell as sweet, but what about a wastewater treatment facility? The City of Santa Barbara is about to find out. The City Council voted to rebrand its El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant a “water resource center.” Right now, El Estero releases six million gallons of treated wastewater into the ocean daily. If and when state water-quality regulators figure out safety thresholds for “potable reuse,” city water czar Joshua Haggmark estimates Santa Barbara could meet roughly half its water demand ​— ​5,000 acre feet a year. “There is no new water on the planet,” Haggmark stressed. “We have no water to ‘waste.’” A significant shift in public perception is needed for potable reuse to succeed, he said : “For years, it’s been you flush and you don’t care where it goes,but these are valuable resources. You need to know where it goes.”

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