Upper Chiquita Reservoir

Improving Local Supply Reliability

The Santa Margarita Water District imports its domestic water supply and is committed to its customers to plan and develop water infrastructure facilities to protect and enhance local supply reliability.

In response to this commitment, SMWD has constructed the Upper Chiquita Reservoir to provide the region with substantial new water reserves to meet customer demand during disruptions of water deliveries to the District. These interruptions can be unanticipated, like the break of the District’s primary supply pipeline in 1999, or planned, like the recent shutdown of the Diemer Filtration plant in Yorba Linda.

The Upper Chiquita Reservoir is located on the western slope of Chiquita Canyon, just north of Oso Parkway in the City of Rancho Santa Margarita.  Completed in October 2011, the 244-million gallon Upper Chiquita Reservoir is the largest domestic water reservoir built in south Orange County in nearly 45 years.

Panoramic View


The Upper Chiquita Reservoir became operational October 2011. The panoramic photograph shows the reservoir in the forefront and the Saddleback Mountains in the background. View Full Image

Reservoir Facts & Figures

  • Storage capacity of approximately 244 million gallons of domestic water (750 acre-feet)
  • Surface area of approximately 17.8 acres
  • The first, large-scale emergency potable water reservoir built in decades in Orange County
  • A regional partnership between SMWD (lead agency), Moulton Niguel Water District, City of San Juan Capistrano, City of San Clemente and South Coast Water District

Reservoir Benefits

  • Regional emergency water supply during planned or unplanned service disruptions
  • Capable of providing upwards of 168,000 families with approximately 200 gallons of fresh water a day for one week
  • Included in the South Orange County Natural Community Conservation Plan, which designates habitat conservation and species protection measures to ensure an environmentally sensitive design
  • Reservoir will not be visible from homes in local neighborhoods, including Las Flores and Wagon Wheel
  • Earthen embankment will significantly reduce any visual impacts while traveling west along Oso Parkway near Highway 241


  • Reservoir design conforms to the rigorous standards set forth by the State of California
  • Safety features, including piezometers (moisture sensors), will continually monitor water levels and test for irregularities

Reservoir Timing

  • June 2009: Groundbreaking
  • October 2011: Construction completed, reservoir operational


In the News

Securing the Water Supply

San Clemente Times - July 7, 2011

Whether it comes from the Colorado River or Northern California, the last leg of the journey for San Clemente’s drinking water begins in Yorba Linda, at the Robert B. Diemer Treatment Plant. From Diemer—a massive plant that puts out enough water daily to fill the Rose Bowl every hour—the water travels nearly 50 miles through a series of pipes buried beneath toll roads and city streets to supply virtually all of South Orange County’s drinking-water needs. Read More...

   May 2011 - Installation of the reservoir's inner lining


Upper Chiquita Reservoir
   July 20, 2011 Aerial view of the reservoir with inner lining installed

More Information

For more information about the project, please call 949-459-6400 or email us at info@smwd.com

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