About Us

Providing High-Quality Services Since 1964

Santa Margarita Water District provides safe, reliable drinking water, recycled water and wastewater services to over 200,000 residents in nine unique communities: Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Juan Capistrano, and the communities of Coto de Caza, Las Flores, Ladera Ranch, Village of Sendero and Esencia, and Talega in San Clemente. The District is the second largest retail water agency in Orange County, by area, and third largest by customers served. 

Nearly all the District’s drinking water supply is imported from hundreds of miles away. Santa Margarita Water District is committed to reducing its dependence on imported water by investing in local, reliable, sustainable, and cost-effective water supplies for today and generations to come. 

Mission Statement

The Santa Margarita Water District provides our customers with quality water and wastewater service – maximizing human, environmental, and financial resources – to help guide South Orange County’s water and wastewater needs into the next century.

Strategic goals by 2030: 

30% Local Water Supply (10,000-14,000 AF)

The District is almost entirely reliant on imported water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.  In order to provide more reliability, SMWD is working on an alternative water supply by 2030. 

6 Months of Drinking Water Storage 

Santa Margarita Water District has a storage capacity of almost 430 million gallons of drinking water which represents one of the largest storage capacities in Orange County. However, the District typically brings in 10 billion gallons of drinking water per year. To provide additional security against long-term service interruption, the District is working with regional partners to develop regional water storage solutions.

Recycle 100% of Wastewater 

The District has one of the largest recycled water programs in Orange County. This has been achieved by innovative urban return projects as well as operating three wastewater reclamation plants. These plants are not only capable of treating the wastewater to the secondary treatment necessary to discharge to the ocean but can apply tertiary treatment which allows the water to be utilized in the District's recycled water system. During the winter months, more wastewater is generated than recycled water is needed which results in the District discharging the excess to the ocean.

SMWD by the Numbers
Last Updated 2022
10Billion gallons of high-quality drinking water served each year
3Billion gallons of recycled water used each year to irrigate common areas
237Facilities owned and operated by SMWD
71,254Acres within the District’s territory
111Square miles within the District's territory 
203,000Residents SMWD serves
62,050Residential connections
3,200Commercial connections
1,950Potable Irrigation connections
1,550Recycled Water Irrigation connections
1,745Miles of water and sewer lines SMWD maintains
432Domestic water storage (in million gallons)
29Domestic pump stations
3Recycled water storage (in billion gallons)
15Recycled water pump stations
555Urban return flows collected annually (in million gallons)
10Average daily wastewater flows (in million gallons)
3Sewage treatment plants operated by SMWD: Chiquita, Oso Creek, & Nichols
21Sewer lift stations

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.