City of Malibu, CA

Holistic Water Quality Program Protects Iconic Beach


The City of Malibu, California is home to the iconic Malibu Lagoon and Surfrider Beach. To protect these resources and enhance water quality in the community, Malibu implemented a multi-decade holistic water quality and water resources approach that included stormwater and wastewater recycling. Creative thinking, community-focused design, and sound approaches have completely addressed the water quality issues and created a new resource for residents and visitors.

Stormwater treatment and habitat restoration in Legacy Park

Malibu Creek had long experienced periodic water quality impairments, which impacted Malibu Lagoon and Surfrider Beach. Malibu worked with Woodard & Curran to design a park and stormwater treatment system that takes runoff from rain events, detains and treats it, and uses the clean water for irrigation and to support and protect endangered fish species habitats. Specifically, the creek and lagoon are valuable spawning and rearing habitat for the tidewater goby and have been identified as prime habitats for restoring and protecting steelhead. Legacy Park and the stormwater treatment system eliminated the dry-weather discharge of urban runoff to the creek to ensure the area can continue to serve as a critical habitat for these fish.

Quote icon

The project has transformed the Civic Center area from one dotted with wastewater treatment and disposal systems to a centralize community facility with a robust level of treatment and a recycled water system. Malibu’s treated wastewater will now be available to irrigate and green some of our most popular public spaces.

Rob DuBoux Public Works Director City of Malibu, CA

Wastewater recycling for irrigation and aquifer recharge

Building on the success of Legacy Park, Malibu invested in wastewater recycling to reduce the community’s reliance on septic systems and thereby protect against nutrient and bacterial loading in Malibu Creek and Lagoon. The Civic Center Water Treatment Facility centralizes wastewater collection and treatment and uses membrane bioreactor technology to produce high-quality recycled water. The reclaimed water is used for landscape irrigation and other non-potable uses. Recycled water not used for landscape irrigation is dispersed into the Malibu Valley Groundwater Basin or percolated into the Winter Canyon aquifer.

The collection system was designed to be “bottle-tight” to prevent the intrusion of brackish water, which would add to the volume of water treated, increasing costs, and make it impossible to use the recycled water for irrigation. To address community concerns and simplify construction, all pipelines and pump stations are underground in public right-of-ways and easements.

Legacy Park

Malibu, California

Persephene St. Charles, Water Resources National Practice Leader, tours our stormwater project in Malibu Park during a heavy rain storm in January 2023.


Scroll back to top of the page