Ocean action: Ten years ago, Pacific Grove had a problem: some of its beaches, and particularly the area around Lovers Point, had some of the worst water quality in the Monterey Bay region. So the city set about rectifying the situation, with high-tech, underground stormwater treatment units and a stormwater capture and diversion system. The system can capture stormwater runoff, particularly during the first storms of the season, when stormwater is dirtiest. "Instead of flowing into the bay, stormwater can be captured and diverted to the sanitary sewer system for further treatment and reuse," says Milas Smith, City of Pacific Grove's environmental program manager. "Our partners can treat the stormwater and process it into non-potable water for irrigation or, starting in 2019, potable water for groundwater replenishment. Millions of gallons of stormwater are sent for treatment in a season."
How the community benefits: The result is cleaner, clearer water along area beaches, and a healthier Pacific Grove area of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. "These stormwater systems aren't well known yet, but they're so important to water quality in Monterey Bay," says Milas. "The city has built a pollution barrier along the coast, with five treatment units and an extensive stormwater capture and diversion system. We'll be adding even more capacity in the next two years—our goal is to divert millions of gallons of stormwater for treatment and continue to eliminate pollutants from entering Pacific Grove's waters."
Oceans of inspiration: Though the city was required by law to make improvements, myriad letters of support poured in, helping solidify outside funding to complete the infrastructure upgrades. "We had letters of support from the City of Monterey, Monterey One Water and a variety of governmental and private agencies," says Milas, including the Aquarium. "City leaders have been very forward-thinking. We've also benefited from the State of California offering grants for stormwater infrastructure improvements."