Rate Changes


Information on wastewater rates adopted for July 2022 - 2025.

Water waste collection crew

Investing in Our Wastewater System

The City’s wastewater system plays an essential role in protecting public health and the environment. Maintaining this vital system requires a proactive commitment to investing in the infrastructure and resources necessary to provide service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The City of Santa Barbara adopted rate changes needed to continue this important investment.

The City’s complex wastewater system includes 256 miles of sewer mains, seven lift stations, 25 creek crossings, over 7,000 access structures (manholes and cleanouts), two miles of pressurized force mains, and the El Estero Water Resource Center – all of which must operate seamlessly 24/7/365 to process approximately two billion gallons of wastewater annually.

What Your Wastewater Bill Pays For

Wastewater bill breakdown

Infrastructure Investment is Paying Off 

The impacts of climate change and aging infrastructure are increasing, but we’re already seeing the benefits of proactive investment in system improvements. In the past 10 years, the City has taken a proactive approach to protecting the environment by increasing rehabilitation and repair of our wastewater collection system, resulting in a 33 percent reduction in sewer spills. Plans are now underway to replace the aging mechanical and electrical equipment at the City’s largest sewage pump station (Braemar Lift Station), resulting in increased reliability, efficiency and longevity.

As a result of proactive upgrades at El Estero Water Resource Center:

  • The quality and cleanliness of treated wastewater has improved.
  • The City is able to generate up to 40 percent of the energy needed to power El Estero on site.
  • Recycled water is produced for irrigation use, offsetting demands on drinking water.
  • Biosolids recovered from wastewater provide a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers. 

By strategically investing now at the lowest cost possible, we avoid more costly expenses that result from lack of care and maintenance, including costs to our environment and community.

Ensuring Sufficient Rates to Fund Critical Infrastructure

Regulations, inflation, cost of essential materials, state and federal requirements, and more are resulting in significant cost increases to operate 24-hour sewer service for the City’s 96,000 customers. While affordability is always top of mind, so too is the City’s responsibility to ensure adequate revenue to fund vital system operations and improvements. The City is actively working to control costs by obtaining loans and grants for complex and expensive capital improvement projects (like the Braemar Lift Station Rehabilitation Project and the El Estero Electrical Renewal Project) to help reduce and spread out costs over a 20-year period.

The City has implemented a grant strategy that involves identifying, tracking, pre-positioning and pursuing all grants for which the water and wastewater utility is eligible. We also continue to offer customer assistance programs including payment plans, utility tax waivers, leak relief and rebates.


Frequently Asked Questions

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