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Posted on: January 28, 2021

2020 By the Numbers


Despite the challenges last year presented, 2020 marked the advancement of regional water reliability goals for the Santa Margarita Water District. For that, we have you to thank. We are honored that you trust us to serve your family high-quality drinking water, wastewater, and recycled water services. With multiple service and sustainability objectives met, we reflect on this year of achievement — and the proof is in the numbers!

  • SMWD served 7.1 billion gallons of drinking water and recycled over 2 billion gallons of water.          
  • More than $50 million was invested by SMWD in its water system. About ¾ of that invested in water supply reliability projects (like Trampas Canyon Reservoir) and the rest in infrastructure maintenance.
  • SMWD’s employee-to-service resident ratio was one employee to 1,300 residents. SMWD employs 154 professionals to serve 200,000 residents. 
  • Four SMWD employees celebrated over 30 years of service.
  • Completed Orange County’s largest recycled water reservoir, Trampas Canyon, which at capacity will hold 1.6 billion gallons of water
  • Customers saved 10 million gallons of water by installing water efficient devices and sustainable landscapes.

A closer look at these figures highlights the great strides made by SMWD Board, employees and customers toward water supply resiliency. Our achievements in projects as large as Trampas Canyon Reservoir and as small as the individual water conservation devices installed in homes throughout the region are testament to the benefits of working together.  

Reshaping Water Supplies

It proved to be another great year for recycled water at SMWD, with over 2 billion gallons of water produced at SMWD’s two water reclamation plants. Recycling and reusing water allows us to make the most out of every drop we import, while sustainably irrigating community parks, slopes, and parkways. One day, it may even supplement our drinking water supply. Increasing the use of recycled water helps us plan for the future impacts of drought, climate change and the risk of earthquakes.

Trampas Canyon Dam and Reservoir, a project of many years of planning and construction, held its dedication ceremony last fall. The ceremony brought together local water leaders, elected officials, and customers to celebrate the biggest accomplishment SMWD has achieved to-date.

The largest recycled water reservoir of its kind in Southern California spans 3,000 feet in length and up to 80 feet deep, its main dam soars 216 feet high. This new infrastructure will lead the way in water resiliency for our drought-prone area.   It allows SMWD to reach its strategic goal of recycling 100% of its wastewater, and may one day serve as a local, reliable, and sustainable drinking water supply. 

Community Members Make a Difference

In one of the hottest years in one of the hottest decades, many in our service area saw their investment in sustainable landscapes pay dividends this year. Landscape design resources and rebates aimed to reduce outdoor water use helped customers replace some 30,000 square-feet of thirsty lawns with low-water-using plants. Did you know that lawns need four to five times more water than drought-tolerant, California native plants? It’s true! This year, we received about 15 inches of rain, which is plenty for our waterwise plants, but only a quarter of the water that fescue grass (e.g. lawn) requires.

SMWD customers who installed water efficient devices and sustainable landscapes saved over 10 million gallons of water this year! By installing outdoor water saving devices such as smart timers, rotating nozzles, and drip irrigation and indoor water saving devices such as high efficiency washing machines, toilets, and flow monitors our customers helped us conserve our most precious resource. In all, we processed over 500 indoor device rebates and 450 outdoor rebates in 2020. 

While gathering in-person was difficult this year, SMWD hosted 3,500 people virtually on for lessons on climate friendly plants as well as virtual garden tours. SMWD also sponsored virtual workshops for learning about water efficient planting and irrigation, drawing over 225 participants.

Looking Ahead

In spite of the various obstacles 2020 presented, the Santa Margarita Water District overcame and excelled in resource protection for the service area. We look forward to a bright 2021, with goals of welcoming San Juan Capistrano residents and completing environmental documents for SMWD’s first drinking water treatment plant.  

2020 Year In Review

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