“Central Coast Blue is a critical project for two reasons: it provides a sustainable water supply for the future so we can serve people in perpetuity, and it protects our groundwater basin.”

Jim Lewis

Pismo Beach City Manager
As widespread and severe drought has become more common across California, securing a sufficient supply of clean water on the Central Coast has become increasingly challenging.

The cities of Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, and Arroyo Grande have partnered to form Central Coast Blue, a regional recycled water project that aims to increase the cities’ available water supply by up to 40 percent.

“Central Coast Blue is a critical project for two reasons,” says Jim Lewis, Pismo Beach City Manager. “It provides a sustainable water supply for the future so we can serve people in perpetuity, and it protects our groundwater basin.”

A new advanced water purification facility is a major part of the Central Coast Blue solution. This new facility will provide a high-quality water source for area communities. Further, it will be the cornerstone for developing a drought-resilient water supply portfolio by capturing and treating an existing resource to replenish local groundwater supplies.

When Central Coast Blue is complete, advanced purified water recovered through the project will represent approximately 65 percent of the cities’ total water demand and result in a 77 percent reduction in ocean discharge. This water resource will be treated locally to drinking water standards, instead of discharging it into the ocean.

The project addresses another pressing concern for the region – seawater intrusion into the Santa Maria Groundwater Basin. Groundwater drawn from the Santa Maria Groundwater Basin through production wells is a critical source of water for area communities, businesses, and agriculture. As groundwater levels are depleted, the Basin is more vulnerable to seawater intrusion and groundwater contamination along the coast. Purified water from Central Coast Blue will be injected into the groundwater basin via injection wells, replenishing groundwater and creating a natural barrier against seawater intrusion.

WSC partnered with the three cities on the Central Coast Blue project from the start, from helping them envision the solution, through planning and preliminary design, funding assistance, groundwater modeling, detailed design, and overall program management. WSC has also led project branding and public outreach for the project. The comprehensive, multi-year, and multi-media communications campaign was recognized by WateReuse as the National and California Outreach Project of the Year.

The $92 million Central Coast Blue project included a full evaluation of numerous recycled water alternatives before arriving at the final solution. WSC led a screening and objective ranking process that helped partners prioritize strategies to improve the sustainability of water resources for the region. This analysis, combined with interactive stakeholder workshops, enabled each agency to identify the need for supplemental water, while also assessing the fiscal impact to their ratepayers and benefits to their water supply portfolios.

Final design and permitting of Central Coast Blue is underway. Construction of the first phase of the project is expected to begin in 2024 with operations to begin by 2026.

Learn more at centralcoastblue.com.

The WSC team at the Central Coast Blue Ribbon cutting ceremony in 2018
The Pilot Facility, 2019
Pilot Testing, 2019
Joint Council Meeting, June 2023