The calcium pump [sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca2+-ATPase (SERCA)] transports Ca2+ from the cytosol to the SR lumen at the expense of ATP hydrolysis and proton countertransport, thus playing a central role in Ca2+ homeostasis and muscle contractility. Proton countertransport via deprotonation of transport site residue Glu309 is a critical first step in SERCA activation because it accelerates the E2-E1 structural transition. Previous studies have suggested that flipping of Glu309 toward the cytosol constitutes the primary mechanism for Glu309 deprotonation, but no conclusive data to support this hypothesis have been published. Therefore, we performed three independent 1 μs molecular dynamics simulations of the E2 state protonated at transport site residues Glu309, Glu771, and Glu908. Structural analysis and pKa calculations showed that Glu309 deprotonation occurs by an inward-to-outward side-chain transition. We also found that Glu309 deprotonation and proton countertransport occur through transient (∼113 ps) water wires connecting Glu309 with the cytosol. Although both mechanisms are operational, we found that transient water wire formation, and not Glu309 flipping, is the primary mechanism for Glu309 deprotonation and translocation of protons to the cytosol. The outward-to-inward transition of protonated Glu309 and the presence of water wires suggest that protons from the cytosol might be passively transported to the lumen via Glu309. However, structural analysis indicates that passive SR proton leakage into the lumen unlikely occurs through Glu309 in the E2 state. These findings provide a time-resolved visualization of the first step in the molecular mechanism of SERCA activation and proton transport across the SR.