Reducing the solids retention time (SRT) of the enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) process can increase organic carbon diversion to the sidestream for energy recovery, thereby realizing some of the benefits of the high rate activated sludge (HRAS) process. Determining the washout (i.e. minimum) SRT of polyphosphate accumulating organisms (PAOs), therefore, allows for simultaneous phosphorus and carbon diversion for energy recovery from EBPR systems. However, few studies have investigated the washout SRT of PAOs in real wastewater, and little is known of the diversity of PAOs in high rate EBPR systems. Here we demonstrate efficient phosphorus removal (83% orthophosphate removal) in a high rate EBPR sequencing batch reactor fed real primary effluent and operated at 20 °C. Stable operation was achieved at a total SRT of 1.8 ± 0.2 days and hydraulic retention time of 3.7–4.8 hours. 16S rRNA gene sequencing data demonstrated that Accumulibacter were the dominant PAO throughout the study, with a washout aerobic SRT between 0.8 and 1.4 days. qPCR targeting the polyphosphate kinase gene revealed that Accumulibacter clades IIA, IIB and IID dominated the PAO community at low SRT operation, while clade IA was washed out at the lowest SRT values.