Getting up to Speed on the Los Osos Sewer Project

What is the Los Osos Wastewater Project and how will it affect resident’s landscaping and water usage?

We just moved our family and our business to Los Osos a couple of months ago. Needless to say, we’re loving it. What an outstandingly beautiful place! The miles of gorgeous coastline in Montana De Oro with beautiful CA native plants, the very rare and amazing sand spit, and of course the tranquil bay make this town a very special place with unparalleled natural beauty. We are grateful to be here.

As I’ve been milling around town discovering new shops and the wonderful Los Osos Valley Nursery, I’ve been hearing more and more about some kind of sewer situation here. So I looked into it. It was a bit difficult finding straight forward information on the internet so I did some research and decided to lay it out in simple terms.

This is what I found out:

During the 70s and 80s, the population of Los Osos grew without any central wastewater collection and treatment system. The community has dealt with their wastewater through individual septic tanks, leach fields, and other methods. It was discovered in 1983 that the Los Osos groundwater basin, where residents get their drinking water, was being contaminated with levels of nitrate that exceed the State’s standards. The high levels were partially due to the widespread use of septic tanks, so the Water Board prohibited any new development or construction in the area that was causing the issues until the water problem was resolved. This area was named “The Prohibition Zone.”

Let’s fast forward to a couple decades later, and many attempts at resolving this crisis. The city of Los Osos is finally getting a central wastewater collection and treatment system. The Los Osos Wastewater Management Project (LOWWP) was finally approved in 2010 with a condition that there is a Recycled Water Management Plan as well.

As water is an issue in all of California, Los Osos has some issues that extend beyond the drought. To supply the city, water is pumped from two wells in the Los Osos Groundwater Basin-the lower and the upper aquifers. The upper aquifer has nitrite contamination and is only partially usable, while the lower has problems with seawater intrusion. Water issues have become so bad that last April, Los Osos declared a Stage III water emergency, and severely restricted water use, even banning the use of potable water for outside irrigation. The Recycled Water Management Plan will help the City of Los Osos conserve water and get the groundwater basin back to health. The Los Osos Wastewater Project developed the following mission statement as a guide through this process. Their plan:

“To evaluate and develop a wastewater treatment system for
Los Osos, in cooperation with the community water purveyors,
to solve the Level III water resource shortage and groundwater
pollution, in an environmentally sustainable and cost effective
manner, while respecting community preferences and
promoting participatory government, and addressing individual
affordability challenges to the greatest extent possible.”

The recycled Water Management Plan is aiming to reuse and conserve water in the Los Osos area and get indoor use to less than 50 gallons per capita per day. That is a great goal, and it is exciting to be a part of a community that is taking action and aiming to conserve so much water. We, as a company and as a family, are environmentally driven and love to be a part of productive and positive change. As I’ve been driving around Los Osos I’ve noticed that there are a lot of drought-tolerant landscapes here. So many people have uprooted their lawns and turned their front yards into beautiful, vibrant gardens humming with birds and bees.

There are some neighborhoods that are part of the prohibition zone that have been waiting to landscape their yards until they are connected to the sewer. This is very exciting to me because it is an opportunity for an entire neighborhood to go drought-tolerant. Almost everybody needs a new front yard and all of them can be landscaped to use very little to no irrigation. Once this big project is completed and residents have installed new drought-tolerant landscapes, I would love to compare the water usage in Los Osos to that of other towns.
Los Osos residents who are a part of the Prohibition Zone will be connecting their sewers in the coming months and throughout the next year. Although the sewer connection is unfortunately posing a financial burden on the residents involved, it will help to resolve the city’s water crisis.

The county of San Luis Obispo is offering rebates to those who qualify. Follow the link below to find out what rebates are being offered.

If you live in Los Osos and would like help with your new landscape, please call our office at 805-400-4140.