Selected as one of the 2010 COTE Top Ten Green Projects, the new Watsonville Area Water Operations Center supports the larger Water Recycling Project, a joint effort of the City of Watsonville and the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency to provide recycled water to farmers throughout the coastal areas of South Santa Cruz and North Monterey counties.
By treating wastewater and making it available to the $400 million local agricultural industry, the Water Recycling Project protects groundwater that is being consumed more quickly than it is replenished, resulting in saltwater intrusion into coastal wells. In addition, the plant significantly reduces wastewater discharges into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Photographs by Bruce Damonte
The Water Resources Center is a functional, educational, and visual extension of the water recycling plant it supports. The new 16,000 square foot building consolidates three different city and county water departments into a workspace that allows for thoughtful and continuous collaboration on issues of water management, conservation, and quality in the Pajaro Valley. The facility includes administrative offices, a water quality lab, educational space and a design that puts the story of water in California on display. The building, its systems, and its landscape will serve to educate the public through exhibitions and guided tours.
The focus on water as a finite, invaluable resource drove every aspect of design, from material selection to site development. Sustainable measures throughout the project design work in harmony with this idea, leveraging all potential opportunities for free cooling and natural ventilation.
The HVAC system delivers thermal comfort and ventilation separately; heating is provided only when required, avoiding the energy penalty of a conventional forced air system, and the ventilation system includes a nighttime purge capability, reducing energy consumption due to cooling. Radiant tubes in the floor use reclaimed water to provide heating and cooling for occupied spaces, and the plumbing design reduces water use with low-flow plumbing fixtures, dual-flush toilets that use reclaimed water for flushing, and solar-powered faucets.
To display water as a seasonal resource connected to the local agricultural growing season, water is supplied to a tiled water feature only when recycled water is available to the site. In addition, rainwater flows from eaves and rain chains into swales, then is carried to retention basins to be treated prior to infiltrating the groundwater system. Native and drought-tolerant plantings, requiring less than 70% of typical water usage, are watered only when recycled water is available.
- Location: Watsonville, CA
- Building type(s): Other, Laboratory, Interpretive Center
- Area: 19,800 ft2 (1,840 m2)
- Rural setting
- Completion: November 2009
- Rating: U.S. Green Building Council LEED-NC, v.2/v.2.1
- Owner: City of Watsonville
- Typically occupied by 73 people, 40 hours per person per week; and 20 visitors per week, 4 hours per visitor per week