Received national recognition for its Community Partnering and Engagement

SAN LUIS OBISPO — The City of San Luis Obispo’s Utilities Department is one of 65 water utilities being recognized for transformational work in community engagement, watershed stewardship, and recovery of resources such as water, energy, and nutrients by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), Water Environment Federation (WEF), Water Research Foundation (WRF) and WateReuse Association.

The City’s Utilities Department was recognized in the area of Community Partnering and Engagement. The Department’s work in this area has resulted in its recognition as one of the most responsive, respectful, and professional water agencies within the region. City staff engages and involves stakeholders through community workshops, water forums, and informal meetings to answer questions about the Department’s operations and projects. This approach has resulted in community members being more informed of the value of clean water and the wastewater treatment process. The Department is committed to being a valued community partner and dedicated to delivering essential water services 24/7. 

Partnerships with Cal Poly and Cuesta College have resulted in thousands of students visiting the Department’s Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) to understand better the essential role of clean water to local communities. Cal Poly has been operating an algae research project at the WRRF for 13 years, which has allowed over 1,500 students to participate. WRRF tours are also available to students from local schools to learn about the water cycles and recycled water.  

Other partnerships with Pacific Gas and Electric have resulted in energy efficiency projects that have reduced WRRF’s energy consumption over 30% and will upgrade outdated equipment with new, more efficient equipment at the Water Treatment Plant. The Department partners and maintains excellent relationships with regulators to bring them in on discussions regarding compliance, regulations, planning future programs and projects, which has resulted in immeasurable time and cost savings for the City.     

The Utility of the Future Today concept is being promoted as water systems face challenges such as aging infrastructure, water pollution, workforce shortages, and impacts of climate change, including drought, floods, storms, and sea-level rise. The Utility of the Future Today program was launched in 2016 by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the Water Research Foundation (WRF) and the WateReuse Association, with input from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The recognition celebrates the achievements of water utilities that transform from the traditional wastewater treatment system to a resource recovery center and leader in the overall sustainability and resilience of the communities they serve.

“The innovations coming to the water sector present an opportunity for a paradigm shift in the way utilities think about and solve long-standing challenges to clean and reliable water,” said Jackie Jarrell, WEF President. “WEF is excited to recognize the City of San Luis Obispo’s Utilities Department for embracing innovative ways to better serve their community.”

The Department will be recognized during a pre-recorded awards ceremony on Oct. 9 during WEFTEC Connect. To learn more, visit www.wef.org/resources/for-the-public/utility-of-the-future/ or contact UtilityRecognition@wef.org. In the next few days, the Department will be flying its new Utility of the Future flag from the big blue crane at the WRRF project on Prado Road.

Getting through this together, Atascadero