Assessing Decentralized Wastewater in Santa Barbara County – A Bren School Master Thesis Project
TSP recently served as the client for a team of graduate students from the UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. The goal of this Master’s Thesis Project was to summarize and compare the economic, social and environmental parameters of existing, innovative, “decentralized” wastewater treatment technologies. This was the first time this information has been summarized into one document. The Bren School team also applied the information they gathered to a case study for “The Children’s Project Academy” – a proposed residential boarding school for foster children in northern Santa Barbara County, designed by Peikert Group Architects (the other “client” for this thesis project). Potential users of this guidance document include architects, builders, government agencies and members of the general public who are interested in incorporating a decentralized system into a project.
Bren Group Project Members: Kiernan Brtalik, Marina Feraud, Kevin Huniu, Dana Jennings, Howard Kahan, Geneva Travis
Bren Faculty Advisor: Arturo Keller
Brief Project Summary: Freshwater resources are critical for meeting human needs, but California’s water supply is currently threatened due to increased demand and a growing population. To address this water shortage, one potential solution is reducing demand through recycling water. Domestic wastewater, for example, can be treated and recycled for irrigation. However, recycled wastewater cannot usually be used onsite when it is pumped to a central treatment facility. Additionally, pumping water for treatment and reuse consumes large amounts of energy. There are alternative systems for treating water which can be installed onsite that, similar to a septic tank, can produce reliably clean water for reuse. Yet these systems are relatively scarce in Santa Barbara due to a lack of awareness and unfamiliarity within the design community.
The team addressed this awareness gap by creating an innovative educational tool to help architects and builders learn about and compare alternative wastewater systems. This tool was designed for The Sustainability Project, a local non-profit that works with the building community. The educational tool can also assist in identifying which wastewater treatment systems might be appropriate for a proposed development. As an example, we applied our tool to a development project in Santa Barbara County that was facing strict water restrictions. We identified which wastewater treatment systems could meet these water restrictions as well as the other project needs. Our tool provides architects and builders with easily accessible information on decentralized wastewater systems, preparing them to meet the sustainable design challenges of the future.