Carmel Area Wastewater District is a special district dedicated to protecting the public health and the environment by the cost-effective collection and treatment of wastewater and the return of clean water to the environment.

Keeping our water and environment clean is a priority with us. The District considers environmental stewardship a key component of the wastewater treatment business. Our rivers and ocean waters teem with life that depends on the shoreline, beaches, and marshes. They are critical habitats for hundreds of species of fish and other aquatic life. Migratory water birds use the areas for resting and feeding.

Water is also a playground for all of us. The scenic and recreational values of our waters are the reason many people choose to live where they do – and a prime reason that the Central Coast and Monterey Bay area are considered so desirable.

Our mission statement says it all – we link the treatment of wastewater with environmental stewardship.

CAWD treatment of effluent removes 95 to 99 percent of organic pollutants from Wastewater before it is discharged. While the Environmental Protection Agency requires that effluent BOD* counts are 30 milligrams per liter or below. CAWD treatment plant typically discharges at 3 milligrams of BOD per liter, making its effluent some of the cleanliest in the state. In addition, local wastewater does not contain heavy metal pollutants, which are a serious problem in more industrial areas.

*Biochemical Oxygen Demand is a measure of how much oxygen microorganisms use when they consume organic matter.

CAWD has been recycling wastewater biosolids (sludge) from the treatment plant since 1994. The sludge is trucked to the Central Valley where it is used as a compost on non-food crops. Using recycled biosolids instead of chemical fertilizers protects groundwater from nitrate pollution, decreases the need for landfills and saves irrigation water by improving the soil’s moisture retention. Over 60 percent of California’s biosolids are recycled for land application.

To learn more about biosolids please go to Education tab.

The District applied for $1,514,423 in grant funds from the California Department of Fish and Game in April 2010 to conduct environmental and geohydrolgical studies and project design for a terminal wetland to receive RO (reverse osmosis) concentrate for augmentation of water in the Carmel River Lagoon.  The grant decision was supposed to come out in early 2011.  As these things often go, it took longer than expected;  but we finally received notification of the grant award in July 2011. The Board held a Special Session on July 12, 2011 to approve the District entering into said grant contract.

This project that would provide year-round recycled water to Carmel River lagoon to support wildlife and habitat.  The grant would be funded by Cal-Am Water over-pumping fees and would cover the cost of project design and the required environmental and hydro geologic studies.

The project (including the grant proposal) uses no ratepayer fees. Water for Wetlands is widely supported by many agencies such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Carmel River Steelhead Association, California State Parks, and many others.  Hundreds of birds species like this egret, as well as endangered steelhead and other wildlife that depend on the Carmel River  lagoon could have a brighter future if the project study proves that lagoon augmentation is a feasible project.

Carmel Area Wastewater District’s Water for Wetlands project has been safeguarding our threatened steelhead population and enhancing habitat in and around the Carmel River Lagoon. During the dry season, we release advance treated water on land near the lagoon to filter through the soil and replenish the waterway. In 2004 when the river was extremely low the project saved most—if not all-our local steelhead.

In 2005, we modified our discharge system to increase efficiency and allow more water to reach the lagoon. It was a huge success. In fact, it was too successful! One day in July, plant employees were stunned to see that the recharge pipe had created a new stream into the lagoon during the night. Small fish had gathered around the pipe, attracted by the slightly warmer water. Since our permit does not allow for direct discharge into the lagoon, we had to immediately stop the water release and scramble for a solution.

Adjustment keeps water flowing for wildlife

Thankfully for our threatened steelhead we were able to adjust the flow rate on our automatic system and once again get a green light from the Water Quality Control Board to discharge for two hours per day. Our self-monitoring system (paid for with a $75,000 grant from Cal-Am Water Company) automatically diverts recycled water to the habitat from Forest Lake Reservoir in Pebble Beach. Previously this valuable water was discharged into the bay.

In 2007, CAWD released about 120,000 gallons of water per day to enhance lagoon habitat. That’s 2 million gallons of extra water to support our threatened local steelhead, endangered red-legged frogs and over 300 species of resident and migrating birds that frequent the lagoon.

Recharging the lagoon creates deeper pools with more plant cover so juvenile steelhead can survive. Low water levels made threatened steelhead easier prey for seabirds before CAWD began recharging the Carmel River lagoon.

CAWD’s Environmental Compliance Inspectors are out in the field every day helping to prevent sewer line blockages and overflows. They work with Carmel restaurants to ensure that grease traps are properly installed and maintained to reduce back-ups. They also protect the environment by inspecting car wash and street sweeper services to make sure heavy metals are removed from wastewater.

Preventing problems at the source reduces maintenance and operations costs-a savings we pass on to ratepayers!

The Central Coast Long-term Environmental Assessment Network (CCLEAN) began in 2001 as an effort to fulfill regulatory objectives and to protect the quality of nearshore marine waters in the Monterey Bay area. The program is funded by five entities: the City of Santa Cruz, City of Watsonville, Moss Landing Power Plant, Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency, and Carmel Area Wastewater District and is under the direction of the Regional Water Board. CClean satisfies the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) receiving water monitoring and reporting requirements of program participants.

The goal of the CCLEAN program is to assist stakeholders in maintaining, restoring, and enhancing nearshore water and sediment quality and associated beneficial uses in the Central Coast Region. The specific objectives of the program are as follows:

  • Obtain high-quality data describing the status and long-term trends in the quality of nearshore waters, sediments, and associated beneficial uses.
  • Determine whether nearshore waters and sediments are incompliance with the Ocean Plan.
  • Determine sources of contaminants to nearshore waters.
  • Provide legally defensible data on the effects of wastewater discharges in nearshore waters.
  • Develop a long-term database on trends in the quality of nearshore waters, sediments and associated beneficial uses.
  • Ensure that the nearshore component database is compatible with other regional monitoring efforts and regulatory requirements.
  • Ensure that nearshore component data are presented in ways that are understandable and relevant to the needs of stakeholders.
  • For CCLEAN to successfully achieve these objectives, a minimum of five years’ data, are necessary to determine the status and trends in the quality of nearshore waters, sediments, and associated beneficial uses.

In wastewater facilities, the microturbines employs methane gas that is provided by anaerobic digesters as the fuel for the microturbines. Each unit is about the size of a refrigerator and produces up to 30 kW of electricity; and the units can be linked together into large arrays if necessary. The microturbine uses the expansion of high-pressure gas to turn the generator to produce electricity. The Districts microturbine project mixes the fuel with air, compressed, combusted and expanded, using only 1 moving part, a single shaft rotating on air bearings. The unit produces electricity which is then used to power equipment in the facility.

The advantages of microturbines are:

  • Uses waste gas to produce valuable heat and electricity
  • Uses air bearing for high reliability and low maintenance
  • Very low emissions without the use of after combustions emission controls

In March 2005 the District completed the Microturbine Project and began producing electrical power using methane gas from the sludge digestion process. The project consists of a gas scrubbing system and two Capstone 30 kW microturbines and associated piping, electrical and controls. Heat recovered from the microturbines is re-used for the sludge digestion process.

Based on output records since startup, approximately $113,000, or approximately 1/3 the original capital costs, in electrical costs have been saved by the microturbines through February 2010.