Local Sustainability

Dove Canyon Conservation and Water Recovery Project

Photo courtesy of Scott Gibson
Courtesy of Scott Gibson, Starr Ranch Sanctuary

The Dove Canyon Conservation and Water Recovery Project is an innovative diversion project that helps keeps urban runoff from reaching the natural habitat in Starr Ranch Sanctuary.

In operation since 2007, this one-of-a-kind project is in partnership with Trabuco Canyon Water District (TCWD) and Audubon Starr Ranch Sanctuary.  Each year, approximately 200 acre-feet of runoff water from Dove Canyon is diverted from Starr Ranch to SMWD’s Portola Reservoir and TCWD’s Dove Lake, both of which hold recycled water.  The project allows both water districts to gain about 200 acre-feet annually of recycled water, freeing up an equal amount of domestic water for customers to use.  The water is then treated and used to irrigate nearby parks and golf courses.

Before the project was implemented, delicate habitat along Bell Creek, located within the 4,000 acre Starr Ranch, had been disrupted by the invasion of non-native species due to year-round water runoff from Dove Canyon.  Today, the project is helping protect and restore this pristine area for future generations.

Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project

SMWD is a partner in the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project, a potential new water source from a large, renewable aquifer located in the eastern Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County.

The proposed Project would manage the aquifer and conserve water from nearby watersheds otherwise being lost to evaporation in local dry lakes. Conserved water would be collected and delivered to SMWD and other water agencies. There would also be an option for carry-over water storage in the Cadiz Aquifer.

SMWD is also exploring possibilities for a storage project that in wet years, would store water from the Colorado River Aqueduct into the Cadiz aquifer. This water could be used when needed in dry years.

If implemented, the Cadiz Project would diversify SMWD’s water portfolio and help drought-proof the District to ensure its water demands are met regardless of the state’s supply.

SMWD is the Lead Agency for the Project’s California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review process. Under this environmental review, the lead agency evaluates its project and any potential environmental impacts. If alternatives are identified and mitigation measures are necessary, then they must be considered and incorporated prior to approval of the project.

Project Overview

The proposed Cadiz Valley Groundwater Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project would provide a new, reliable source of water to Southern California. The Project would provide up to 50,000 acre feet (1.6 billion gallons) of water, on average per year, for potable use – the amount equivalent to supplying water to 400,000 individuals for one year. Water would be delivered to SMWD and other participating water providers via the Colorado River Aqueduct delivery system. The Project also provides opportunities for carry-over storage of annual supplies to Project participants and could provide capacity for storage of imported water if needed in the future.

The proposed project would be executed in two phases:

Conservation and Recovery Component – Phase I

In this first phase, a system would be constructed to capture and conserve the aquifer’s average annual recharge that would otherwise evaporate from the Bristol and Cadiz Dry Lakes. The project would construct extraction wells on the Cadiz property and a 44-mile underground water conveyance pipeline within an active railroad right-of-way that intersects with the Colorado River Aqueduct, making water delivery to the Southern California region possible. If the region experiences wet weather, SMWD has the option to decrease or forego its water delivery for that year and carry it over to another year when it may be needed. This carry-over water would be stored in the Cadiz Aquifer.

Imported Water Storage Component – Phase II

A second phase of the Project contemplates storage of imported water from the Colorado River in the Cadiz aquifer system. The storage capacity of the aquifer system is estimated to be one million acre feet. In wet years, surplus water from the Colorado River could be conveyed to recharge basins on Cadiz-owned land and would percolate into the underground aquifer for storage. The water would be available for use in dry years, helping improve the region’s water supply reliability.


Cadiz Inc. owns approximately 34,000 acres of land in the Cadiz and Fenner Valleys of the Mojave Desert, located in San Bernardino County. This property is underlain by an extensive aquifer system offering natural recharge and storage capacity.

The Cadiz Valley Project will capture and utilize billions of gallons of renewable, native groundwater that is currently being lost each year to evaporation when rain and melted snow from the Fenner Valley and Orange Blossom Watersheds reach the area’s dry lakes. In addition, the Project will offer approximately one million acre feet of storage capacity that can be used to conserve – or bank – imported water, virtually eliminating the high rates of evaporative loss suffered by local surface reservoirs.

Santa Margarita Water District, Three Valleys Water District, Golden State Water Company, Suburban Water Systems, Jurupa Community Services District and California Water Service Company have entered into agreements with Cadiz Inc. for the option to receive an annual water supply and for the ability to store water should the project become operational.

For more information about Cadiz, please visit www.cadizinc.com.

Baker Water Treatment Plant

SMWD is a partner in the Baker Water Treatment Plant project, a new regional water treatment plant to increase local water supply reliability. The new project is located at Irvine Ranch Water District’s existing Baker Filtration Plant site in the City of Lake Forest. 

The Baker Water Treatment Plant provides local water treatment capabilities that increase the operational flexibility in the case of unanticipated circumstances, and improves water reliability to parts of south Orange County. 

The capacity of the Baker Water Treatment Plant is 28 million gallons a day, which can provide water for up to 70,000 families for one day.  Water treated at the Baker Water Treatment Plant is distributed among several local districts; El Toro Water District (ETWD), Moulton Niguel Water District (MNWD), Trabuco Canyon Water District (TCWD) and Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD).

Click here for more information.

Poseidon Desalination Plant in Huntington Beach

SMWD supports the proposed facility, which is expected to produce 50 million gallons of fresh water a day to more than a dozen Orange County cities and water districts, including SMWD. The facility will help ensure there is a sufficient high-quality local water supply to meet demands and protect Southern California against future water shortages and emergencies.


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