Water Quality Improvement Projects

Street Sweeper
Street Sweeper

Street Sweeping

In an effort to remove pollutants from local creeks, Project Clean Water has been conducting an ongoing, targeted street sweeping project in the commercial areas of Orcutt, Goleta, Montecito and Summerland.

Creek Cleanups

During the course of annual creekwalks and complaint responses, Project Clean Water staff regularly encounter sources of pollution in and around local creeks. These include point source discharges from pipes, greenwaste piles, horse manure piles, dog waste, human encampments, and graffiti waste (spray cans, rollers, latex gloves, paint, etc.). When possible, Project Clean Water staff remove these sources of pollution from the creek immediately. For larger quantities of trash and debris, Big Green is asked to handle the cleanup. On other occasions, the proper County department (e.g., Solid Waste, Fire) is alerted to the presence of the water pollution and asked to assist Project Clean Water in cleanup of the creek.

Trash and Algae
Trash in creek found by Project Clean Water

For example, this image shows Project Clean Water staff removing three half-full cans of latex paint from Rincon creek. These cans had been left by individuals who had been "tagging" the walls of a culvert. Not only is such vandalism illegal and an eyesore, but the human health and ecological impacts of leaving latex paint (classified as a hazardous waste) where it can come into contact with creek water are severe.

For more information, contact Cathleen Garnand or call (805) 568-3561.

Rincon Cleanup
Project Clean Water paint removal

Structural Best Management Practices

CDS Schematic
CDS unit used by Project Clean Water

Continuous Deflective Separation (CDS) units

CDS units are specially designed concrete sumps that trap pollutants in underground vaults for later removal. The units are tied into the existing storm drain system. A weir diverts low and moderate flows through the unit, which separates out sediment, trash and some oil and grease. The filtered storm water is then discharged back into the storm drain system or to a bioswale via gravity flow. The CDS unit is designed to divert and filter the first flush of storms, which typically contain the highest concentration of contaminants. The units are periodically cleaned out to remove the trapped pollutants. Project Clean Water has constructed four CDS units located in Isla Vista, as well as three CDS units located in the Eastern Goleta Valley.

Full CDS
Trash in Project Clean water CDS unit

The photo to the left shows trash and debris trapped by one of Project Clean Water's CDS units in Isla Vista near the UCSB campus.

Oil Absorbent Booms

Oil Booms are used in our four Isla Vista CDS units to absorb oil, petroleum based solvents, paints, vegetable oils and other non-water soluble chemicals. They are constructed with a strong outer polypropylene skin encasing a highly sorbent polymer which transforms hydrocarbons into a rubber-like solid. The solidification process is non-chemical in nature allowing the US EPA to classify it as a sorbent.

This photo shows a boom freshly retrieved from a CDS unit next to a new boom about to be installed.

Two Oil Booms
New boom and retrieved boom


Bioswales are low-gradient, often vegetated surface channels through which surface water runoff is directed. The function of a bioswale is to treat runoff for pollutants like bacteria, nutrients, heavy metals, fine sediment, some pesticides and herbicides, and residual oil and grease. Vegetation in a bioswale helps to slow water velocity and encourage deposition of fine sediment and heavy metals. These pollutants are then immobilized and no longer pose a threat to downstream water quality. When water carrying pollutants infiltrates into the soil, some of the pollutants (oil from roads and parking lots, some pesticides and herbicides) are decomposed by bacteria. Excess nutrients from fertilizers are taken up by the plants growing in the soil. Urban runoff often also contains potentially harmful bacteria from septic or sewer leaks or domestic animal feces. The concentraction of these bacteria is reduced through break down by solar radiation when runoff is retained in a bioswale.

Turnpike Bioswale 2012
Turnpike Bioswale 2012
Turnpike Bioswale 2003
Turnpike Bioswale 2003

S. Turnpike Bioswale Urban Runoff Treatment Control

In 2003, a CDS TM unit and bioswale were installed at the southern end of S. Turnpike Road. The system treats storm water runoff from 76 acres of mostly residential area, but also including San Marcos High School and the Hollister / Turnpike commercial area. 

Project Clean Water selected this site due to high levels of pollutants, including bacteria, metals and toxic petroluem compounds. Now, storm water and non-storm discharges (e.g. over-watering) are treated by first removing trash and debris, then filtered slowly through the length of the biofilter before entering Atascadero Creek.

During the vast majority of the time, this system absorbs the polluted runoff before it reaches Atascadero Creek, thereby eliminating a significant source of pollution.

Rhoads/Walnut Bioswale Project

This project was also funded by a grant from the California Coastal Conservancy. The project was constructed in two phases. In the first phase, two CDS units were installed, one at the intersection of Walnut and San Vicente and the other at San Ramon and San Vicente. The second phase involved minor excavation and planting of two bioswales at the Walnut Park Townhomes condominium complex. Existing concrete "walks" were left in place.

The CDS units will be maintained by the County of Santa Barbara Public Works Department. The County will assure the establishment of the bioswales over the first two to five years through irrigation, weeding, and monitoring. Over the long-term, the established bioswales will become part of the landscape and will require no additional maintenance beyond existing landscaping.

Isla Vista Project

In an effort to prevent a large amount of visible (trash, debris and other "floatables") and invisible pollutants from reaching the beaches of Isla Vista, a CDS unit was initially installed at the corner of El Embercadero and Del Playa. Because of the effectiveness of this unit in diverting pollutants, three more units were installed along Del Playa at Camino Pescadero, Camino del Sur and Escondido Pass (between Camino del Sur and Camino Corto). In addition to funding from the California Coastal Conservancy, this project received support from the Coastal Fund (formerly Shoreline Preservation Fund) 

IV BMP Sites

Marvilla Project

In spring 2001, crews completed installation of an inline CDS unit along Calle Real. This unit is an integral part of the development at Maravilla and Orchard Park located between Patterson Avenue and San Jose Creek. The unit treats runoff from the two developments as well as runoff from streets and the existing fire station. Installation of the unit was paid for by the developers and will be maintained by the County Roads Division through a contract with the City of Goleta. This project is not part of the Coastal Conservancy grant.

For more information about the CDS unit and bioswale projects, contact Cathleen Garnand or call (805) 568-3561.