Silicon Valley Clean Water Launches New $580 Million Wastewater Conveyance System

REDWOOD CITY, CA (June 11, 2024) – After 16 years in the making, Silicon Valley Clean Water (SVCW) recently celebrated the official opening of its historic, award-winning $580 million Regional Environmental Sewer Conveyance Upgrade (RESCU) – an innovative revamp of its wastewater conveyance system that will support community and environmental health in Silicon Valley over the next century.

The RESCU Program involved converting SVCW’s conveyance system from a 60-year-old, failing force-main system to a more efficient gravity system, which involved three massive projects:

  • The 3.3-mile Gravity Pipeline, a tunnel to convey wastewater from our member agencies’ collection systems to the SVCW Treatment Plant.
  • The Front of Plant, which includes a new Receiving Lift Station to deliver wastewater from the tunnel to a new headworks, consisting of new screens and grit removal.
  • Pump Stations Improvements, consisting of decommissioning two pump stations, rehabilitating one pump station, and replacing one pump station.

“We’re incredibly proud not only of the innovative design-build approach to this project, but also how we were able to get it done on-time and on-budget with safety a top priority—especially when you consider that much of the construction was done during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said SVCW General Manager Teresa Herrera at the ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this month. “We’re also honored that the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) recognized our innovative Gravity Pipeline project with four national awards at their 2023 National Design-Build Project/Team Awards last November.”

Herrera said the remarkable engineering feat was due in large part to the close collaboration between its staff, regional government partners and contractors, as well as RESCU’S progressive design-build project delivery process, which industry studies have shown deliver projects that perform far better in terms of cost, quality, and schedule. She also said the project wouldn’t have been possible without the technical and financial support of Dr. Andrew Sawyers, director of the Office of Wastewater Management at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who flew in from Washington, DC to be part of the launch.

“I’m so proud to have helped facilitate the U.S. EPA’s $218 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (referenced as “WIFIA”) loan to SVCW in 2019 to finance RESCU, which improves the SVCW wastewater system’s safety and reliability, and protects the San Francisco Bay,” said Dr. Sawyers. “The WIFIA loan will save SVCW an estimated $43 million compared to typical bond financing by offering low, fixed interest rates and flexible financial terms.”

In addition to more efficiently and safely conveying wastewater, the RESCU Program also adds capacity to manage higher flows during wet weather, which is critical to public and Bay health as we face heavier rainy seasons. The role in supporting public health through management of wastewater in SVCW’s conveyance system is epic, although it’s often overlooked.

“When you ask people what’s great about living here, the answer probably won’t be our innovative wastewater treatment and conveyance system, but without a doubt it’s a major contributor to our great quality of life for residents and businesses in Belmont, Redwood City, San Carlos, and the West Bay Sanitary District, said San Mateo County Deputy County Executive Justin Mates. “Improved wastewater treatment capabilities also ensure compliance with regulatory standards that help to protect public health and the environment, which is so important to generational health equity.”

Mates added that this project represents a vital component in a regional sustainability strategy by keeping our drinking water and Bay clean and safe, while using innovative strategies to collaborate and reduce our carbon footprint as our climate changes. The strategy includes initiatives such as recycling water, using recovered biogas from wastewater for energy, all making us more efficient as a community, so we don’t have to rely as much on water and electricity from distant resources.

“We’re extremely proud that because of our collaborators’ commitment to responsible environmental stewardship, our state-of-the-art technologies and sustainable practices serve as a model for other agencies with aging infrastructure and will support our health and environment for generations to come.”

SVCW embarked on its Capital Improvement Program (CIP) in 2008, which, in addition to RESCU, includes the rehabilitation of processes throughout the treatment plant, originally constructed in the late 1970s. Silicon Valley Clean Water uses its CIP to replace and rehabilitate existing infrastructure in its pump stations, treatment plant, and force main, and to continuously maintain its conveyance and treatment facilities to ensure system reliability and public health far into the future. Read more about the CIP and RESCU Program.

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