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San Juan Capistrano

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On August 2, 2023, the Santa Margarita Water District Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve changes to the drinking water, recycled water, and wastewater rate structure for customers in San Juan Capistrano. 

The new rate structure is effective on August 3rd and will appear in the September bills with a portion of the capital charges to appear on property tax bills. 


Prioritizing Your Pipes

Investing in San Juan Capistrano

Since SMWD began serving San Juan Capistrano customers in 2021, we have invested $7 million in infrastructure improvements and maintenance. SMWD hit the ground running, making immediate repairs and improvements to San Juan Capistrano’s water and sewer infrastructure system.  Improvements, repairs, and enhancements in San Juan Capistrano over the past year included:

  • Cleaning 59 miles of the city’s sewer lines
  • Repairing three major water line leaks
  • Rebuilding the city’s water monitoring system
  • Increasing the San Juan Groundwater Plant production by 20%
  • Nearly completing the Riding Park recycled water conversion
  • Expanding the city’s use of recycled water
  • Implementing a systemwide preventative maintenance schedule

More Investments Over the Next Decade

Over the next five years, we plan to invest more than $40 million to rehabilitate and upgrade San Juan Capistrano’s aging water and sewer infrastructure and complete critical deferred system maintenance.

About Your Monthly Water & Wastewater Bill

The District's monthly water and wastewater rate structure contains two categories of charges:

  • Commodity Charge - the cost to buy or produce water
  • Fixed Monthly Base Charge - the cost for operations, facilities, and capital

The commodity charges are based on the actual demands placed on the water and wastewater utility and customers are charged per Hundred Cubic Feet (CCF) of water used. Single-family residential customers are billed on a tiered basis, depending on the amount of water used in each billing cycle. 

Since all customers benefit from the pipes, pumps, reservoirs, and future water reliability programs, these infrastructure costs are recovered by the fixed base charges and are based on the size of the water meter servicing a property; the majority of residential customers have 3/4" or 1" meters.

About Your Annual Property Tax Bill 

Property owners are the primary beneficiary of capital investments in the water system which provides service reliability and benefits over many years. Residential customers will see a fixed charge for capital investments on their property tax bills. 

Your Water Budget

Water budgets help customers manage their water use and encourage efficient use of water. Water budget-based rates are an industry best practice and have proven to help stabilize revenue and secure long-term financial stability for the District. The Indoor Budget (Tier 1) is based on household size (default of 4 people with variances available for larger households) per single-family residence. The Outdoor Budget (Tier 2) is based on the amount of irrigable landscape for a given lot size and factors that reflect the water needs of suburban landscapes and irrigation efficiencies established under industry guidelines. When customers’ usage stays within their “budget” they pay the lowest price. 

Dedicated irrigation customers also adhere to a water budget structure.

Water Budget Graphic Tiers 1 and 2

Rate Calculator

undefined Opens in new windowResidential customers may estimate their monthly water and wastewater bill by using the rate calculator

Commercial customers should contact us at CustomerCare@smwd.com to learn more about their proposed impacts.
  • Customer-Account # Look-Up

    Use this tool to find your new customer and account number.

    Enter in your existing (old) Customer # (6 digits) and Account # (7 digits). Include leading zeroes.

    Example: 000xxx-000xxxx

  • Should be Empty:

Quick Facts

  • Rates must cover the actual cost of service; every dollar charged to a customer is tied to the cost of providing drinking water, recycled water, and wastewater services
  • The average increase across the city is 7% 
  • The average residential bill may increase up to $30/month
  • The increase for the average customer whose services include a private fire service is 31% 
  • Fire meters require 1,600 gallons of water per minute
  • SJC water service rates haven't changed since 2018 
  • Impacted customers may qualify for assistance 

Adopted Rates for San Juan Capistrano (2023)

The charts below show the adopted monthly rates for water and wastewater services for residential customers in San Juan Capistrano.  

In addition, a fixed charge for capital investments in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure will be collected through property tax bills.  To view the adopted rates click here.

Potable Water Commodity Rates (Cost per CCF)

Single & Multi-Family Customers

Tier LevelAdopted Rates August 3, 2023Adopted Rate July 1, 2024
Tier 1$3.42$3.51
Tier 2$3.43$3.52
Tier 3$3.71$3.80
Tier 4$4.76$4.87

Potable Water Fixed Base Charge (Cost per Meter Size)

Water Line SizeAdopted Rates August 3, 2023Adopted Rates July 1, 2024
3/4-inch Residential$27.72$31.74
1-inch Residential$27.72$31.74
1 1/2-inch$63.70$75.39

The majority of residential customers have a 3/4-inch or 1-inch meter

Wastewater Commodity Charge (Cost per CCF)

Customer TypeAdopted Rates August 3, 2023Adopted Rates July 1, 2024

Maximum of 9 CCF for Single Family; Maximum 7 CCF for Multi-Family

Wastewater Fixed Base Charge (Cost per Meter Size)

Customer TypeAdopted Rates August 3, 2023Adopted Rates July 1, 2024
Multi-Family Single Meter$21.06$23.42
Multi-Family Common Meter, per Account$10.15$10.94
Multi-Family Common Meter, per Dwelling Unit$10.91$12.48
Multi-Family Common Meter (Mobile Homes)

Rate Study 2023

The Santa Margarita Water District is a public agency that provides water, recycled water, and wastewater services. The District's rates are based on the actual costs to provide these services to our customers and were developed based on cost allocation principles and requirements in accordance with California Proposition 218 requirements.

San Juan Capistrano ratepayers have not seen a rate increase since 2018.  Due to the capital expenditure required, the District conducted a cost-of-service study to analyze the most efficient and effective way to provide water and sewer service to SJC residents while protecting both the environment and our ratepayers’ pocketbook.

Water and wastewater rates may increase as much as $30 per month depending upon your type of service. These investments are long overdue. While San Juan Capistrano ratepayers have not seen a change in their rates in five years, neighboring communities have experienced an increase of 24% over that same amount of time to pay for the maintenance and rehabilitation of their water and sewer pipes and pumps. 

San Juan Capistrano deserves the same water and sewer service and reliability as other South County communities, and we're pleased to work together to improve local and sustainable water solutions now and in the future.

The Adopted Rates provides the complete list of rates for San Juan Capistrano. The bill calculator provides a convenient way to estimate your bill based on the adopted rates. The adopted rates will go into effect on August 3, 2023, and be seen on bills in September 2023.

Why are Water & Sewer Costs Going Up?

Inflation is impacting every facet of our lives and our water and sewer cost of service is no exception.  Electrical power, chemicals, parts, and equipment are all impacted by inflationary pressures.

Imported Water costs continue to rise. As the cost of water from Northern California and the Colorado River goes up, that increase is passed along to the customer. 

Local Water Projects are being developed by SMWD and while there is some upfront investment, the capital costs are fixed and won’t escalate over time. Additionally, local reliable, and sustainable water projects will provide us with more self-reliance so we are not as dependent on imported water as we are today.

What has SMWD Done to Reduce Costs?

Santa Margarita Water District has reduced its energy cost by $400,000 with a solar array, reduced its operational costs by $500,000 through operations and technology efficiencies, and reduced imported water costs by $4 million by using recycled water.

SMWD estimates that the District will save San Juan Capistrano ratepayers about $2 million annually due to agency efficiencies 

Need Help Paying Your Bill? 

Effective January 1, 2024, the pilot assistance program will be available to all SMWD  residential customers. Once approved, a $25 monthly bill credit will be applied to the account for 12 consecutive months. Participants must reapply each year. 

 Program Requirements: 

  • Current SMWD Customers only 
  • Previously qualified for the CARE Program by any of the three gas or electricity providers: Edison, So. Cal Gas, or San Diego Gas & Electric (SDGE). 
  • Submit a copy of your latest utility bill showing the CARE designation. 

Step 1: Gather your documentation (latest bill showing CARE designation) 

Step 2:  Complete the District’s Application (coming soon) 

Step 3: You will receive a confirmation letter/email once approved

Please allow up to one month for processing.

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