The Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) was formed in 1964 as a landowner district (Section 35306 of the California Water Code) by a group of ranchers who wanted to create a reliable source of water for their cattle. The first neighborhoods of Mission Viejo had not been built yet, and SMWD provided water to more cows than people.


SMWD’s first Board of Directors began to create the blueprint for what has become the second-largest water district in Orange County. The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a master plan for Mission Viejo and in 1966 families stood in line waiting for pay $21,000 for a home in the former cattle range.

In response, SMWD created a new strategy for supplying water to the growing planned communities in its service area.


The District was managing more than 800 water connections, many in the new communities of Mission Viejo and Coto de Caza.

In 1981 SMWD constructed the O’Neill Reservoir. At 6 million gallons, it becomes the District’s largest water storage facility.


SMWD broke ground on the Chiquita Water Reclamation Plant - a facility to provide sewage treatment for Rancho Santa Margarita, Coto de Caza and a small portion of the Trabuco Canyon Water District.

For the seventh time in three years, SMWD offers its customers a rate decrease in 2000.


SMWD is reorganized as a registered voter California Water District (California Water District legislation is Section 34000 of the California Water Code).


With the expansion of the Chiquita Water Reclamation Plant complete, SMWD was able to produce an additional 2 million gallons of recycled water a day.

SMWD began construction of two subterranean reservoirs in 2005 to supply Ladera Ranch with nearly 5 million gallons of water. The underground design allowed an acre of park space to be developed above.