Watsonville Water Resources Center

The Watsonville Water Resources 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 south Santa Cruz and north Monterey counties. By treating wastewater and making it available to the $400 million local agricultural industry, the project protects groundwater and reduces wastewater discharges into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

LEED Platinum and Net Zero Electricity, 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 different city and county water departments into a workspace that supports collaboration on issues of water management, conservation and quality. 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 serve to educate the public through exhibition and guided tours. An educational resource for local middle and high school students, it also serves as a meeting place for city and county agencies and the broader community.

Every aspect of the campus, from site development and landscaping to building materials, emphasizes water as a finite, invaluable resource. Water flows through radiant tubes in the floors to provide the occupied spaces with heating and cooling. Rainwater flows from eaves, down rain chains, and into swales, where it is carried to retention basins, detained, and treated prior to infiltrating the groundwater system. Native and drought-tolerant plantings are watered only when recycled water is available and recycled water flows through a courtyard water feature only when it’s available, linking the audible sound of water to its availability 10 months out of the year. Along with the use of low-flow plumbing fixtures, these water conservation strategies helped reduce potable water consumption by 50%; helped achieve energy efficiency targets that exceed ASHRAE 90.1 standards by 76%; and reduced the need for energy-intensive water transport, lowering the building’s overall carbon footprint.

Design elements specifically put on display for educational purposes include radiant tube manifolds, rain chains into flow-through gravel beds, bioswales, and graphics illustrating the building’s water use and conservation. With its easily understood geometries and visual connection to the area’s architectural vernacular, the design of this facility underscores the Water Recycling Project’s larger story of conservation, restraint, and localism — every system and material was selected with this in mind. For instance, California redwood owned by the City and slated for fire hazard clearance was custom milled eight miles from the project site and incorporated into the building’s rain screen cladding system. The redwood, better suited than alternatives such as plaster or steel to withstand coastal area saltwater, will develop a brown-grey patina, helping the facility blend in with its surroundings. The redwood also helps stoke memory for local students who, in 6th grade visit the city’s forest at the top of watershed, then in the 8th grade, come to this facility to learn about the cycle of water, and how this building supports regional conservation.

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