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Backflow is the undesirable reversal of flow of water into the potable water system, which can cause contamination or pollution. There are many situations that can trigger a backflow event, where potentially harmful substances can enter the potable water system. Backflow assemblies are installed to prevent such events from occurring.
Generally, it is located behind the water meter near the street for most residential applications. In commercial applications, there may be internal backflow assemblies near potential hazards in addition to the assembly at the meter. This is to provide an extra level of protection to the water distribution system in case the external assembly at the meter is not functioning.
Title 17 of the California Administrative Code and the Santa Margarita Water District’s Rules and Regulations require that backflow assemblies be tested on an annual basis. The backflow test is to ensure the assembly is functioning properly to prevent contamination or pollution of the potable water supply.
A backflow assembly may be tested by any backflow tester currently certified through the Orange County Health Care Agency. Please refer to our Backflow webpage for more information on testing and reporting.
Typically, the backflow tester’s name and number who performed the previous year’s test at the property is listed on the front page of the backflow test letter above the assembly information. You may also contact a backflow tester from the approved list provided. The backflow test letter is sent out at the beginning of the month the test is due and comes with a test report form for each backflow assembly at the property. The report forms are given to the tester upon arrival, who will perform the test, complete the forms, and return the forms via email or fax to SMWD by the end of the test month. SMWD forms and instructions can be found on our Backflow webpage.
It is the responsibility of the property owner, unless an agreement between owner and tenant exists, to maintain and test backflow assemblies. Orange County Health Department maintains a list (click here) of certified backflow testers that can test, maintain, and repair backflow assemblies. Please also refer to our SMWD Backflow webpage for forms and instructions.
A contract between the District and the permit holder (permittee) explaining the terms and conditions under which the permittee is granted the permissive authority to perform one or more of the following:
In order for the District to ensure all work is done consistent with established District standards and design criteria. More specifically the permit is required by the District:
At a minimum, the following will be required, additional information may be required depending on the nature of the work:
Depending on workload and complexity of the project, allow for a minimum of 10 business days.
The Recycled Water Use Exhibit (RWU Exhibit) is to provide a simplified plan of the irrigation system to identify pertinent site, irrigation, and civil improvement information to aid the plan review by District staff as well as State Department of Drinking Water and the Orange County Department of Environmental Health. All submitted recycled water irrigation plans must include the RWU Exhibit as part of the submitted plan set.
All on-site irrigation systems that use or plan to use recycled water must be reviewed and approved by the District’s Chief Engineer to ensure the project complies with the District’s Technical Requirements for Recycled Water Service. Please consult the recycled water irrigation plan review and approval flowchart. A review and inspection fee of 4% is required. The following documents need to be submitted:
At the time of plans are submitted to the District, the applicant shall make a nonrefundable plan review fee deposit based on 2.0 percent of the estimated construction cost of the recycled irrigation facilities. A minimum deposit of $200 will be required on all projects. Prior to approval of the irrigation plans by the District, the applicant shall pay the final plan review and inspection fee, which will be based on 4.0 percent of the estimated construction cost of the system. The estimated cost will be prepared by the applicant and submitted for review by the District. The minimum fee shall be $400. The applicant will be given credit for the plan review fee deposit. The percentage and/or minimum fee may be revised by the District without prior notice to the applicant. Fees shall be paid prior to the approval of plans.
Yes. Soon after your facility begins operations, an SMWD FOG Inspector will conduct an inspection of your facility to assist you with your understanding of the Program. Routine FOG inspections are then conducted on a regular basis to ensure continued compliance with the FOG Program rules and regulations.
A Gravity Grease Interceptor is required if your establishment is:
Gravity Grease Interceptor sizing is based on the drainage fixture units (DFU) connected to the Gravity Grease Interceptor, pursuant to the current California Plumbing Code (CPC). In most cases an architect, plumbing engineer, or plumbing contractor can assist with determining the necessary Gravity Grease Interceptor size. You may consult this Grease Interceptor sizing sheet.
No. Garbage disposals or food grinders are not allowed in food service establishments.
All potential grease bearing fixtures and drains (cooking equipment drains, pot sinks, 3-comp sinks, mop sinks, dishwasher pre-rinse sinks, prep sinks, floor sinks, or floor drains) in the food preparation, cooking, and cleanup areas of the facility are required to be connected to the Gravity Grease Interceptor.
Drainage from automatic dishwashers or restrooms should not be connected to the Gravity Grease Interceptor. Note: the dishwasher pre-rinse sink must be connected to the Gravity Grease Interceptor.
The Gravity Grease Interceptor configuration must provide access for maintenance and inspection of the inlet, outlet and baffle tees and should include a sample box. Depending on the Gravity Grease Interceptor size and manufacturer, the Gravity Grease Interceptor may require three (3) access openings (excluding the sample box) to provide the required access. You should consult with you interceptor manufacturer to identify a Gravity Grease Interceptor configuration that meets these requirements.
A water pressure regulator is a safety feature designed to prevent the water pressure inside your home from climbing too high or falling too low. Building codes require builders to install a water pressure regulator on homes when the street mainline pressure exceeds 80 psi (pounds per square inch). Most regulators are pre-set by manufacturers at 50 to 60 psi, which is the optimal pressure.
The water pressure regulator is a bell shaped device often located on the main line inlet pipe, usually near the house shut-off valve (customer valve) outside the home. If you have one it is very important to know where it is and how to check it.
Most water pressure regulators have an adjustment nut that can be used to increase or decrease the water pressure. Incorrectly adjusting the regulator could cause water pressure to become too high or too low. Unfortunately, SMWD is unable to adjust pressure regulators because they are considered to be the homeowner’s private property. If an adjustment cannot be made to your regulator, it may need to be replaced. You may want to contact a local plumbing supply store or a plumbing professional for assistance.
Fast forward to 1:05 minutes in the video above for information on how to adjust your pressure regulator.
Advanced Treated Water is recycled water that has received additional levels of treatment to polish the water to the Lake Mission Viejo Association’s water quality specifications.
Yes, Advanced Treated Water is safe for recreational activities, including swimming, at Lake Mission Viejo.
Prior to the extra treatment, Santa Margarita Water District’s recycled water meets state and federal health regulations for swimming lakes (Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations).
While no ill effects would be anticipated from consuming APW, it is not yet approved for human consumption.
SMWD currently produces recycled water that is treated to standards for irrigation and other unrestricted non-potable uses in accordance with Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations (“Title 22”); including for use in recreational lakes.
LVMA currently purchases Title 22 recycled water from SMWD for irrigation and while Title 22 water can legally be used in the Lake, LVMA has determined that a higher water quality is desirable to maintain the lake quality to support the various recreational uses of the Lake by LVMA members. The District, in consultation with LVMA, has determined that with additional treatment infrastructure, it can produce higher quality recycled water to such standards and in adequate quantities as are necessary to meet the needs of LVMA at the Lake.
The projected is expected to cost $5 million. The project is estimated to pay a premium for the water for 20-25 years.
The Lake Mission Viejo Association will pay the capital costs of the ATW treatment facility and for the water that is ultimately delivered for use in the lake.
Delegates representing the 81 neighborhoods within the 24,217-home Lake Mission Viejo Association voted unanimously to switch to Advanced Treated Water for lake refill and end nearly 40 years of using potable (drinking) water to maintain water levels in the 124-acre Orange County lake. In all, delegates cast 19,803 votes – representing 82 percent of the Association’s homeowners – all in favor of the Association working with the Santa Margarita Water District to construct a new treatment plant to produce Advanced Treated Water for the lake.
The project is completed. Lake Mission Viejo is being filled with Advanced Treated Water, as needed.
While SMWD operates a water quality lab, independent testing cannot be performed there. If you'd like additional testing performed, SMWD would suggest contacting an independent laboratory accredited through the State's Environmental Laboratory Accrediation Program (ELAP). The State has a helpful tool located here to assist you in finding a certified commercial lab.
While SMWD can't recommend a specific product, the following organizations might be able to:
While it varies on the time of year and drought conditions, SMWD water is considered hard. When water is considered hard, it is high in dissolved minerals. As the concentration of dissolved minerals increase, the water becomes harder.
The hardness of the water is completely dependent on the water SMWD imports. During the 2015 drought, 100% of the water was being imported from the Colorado River which resulted in very hard water. When available, SMWD imports water from the State Water Project which conveys water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta which is much softer.
The California Department of Public Health and the US Environmental Protection Agency both consider hard water only an aesthetic issue and is completely safe to drink.
SMWD utilizes chloramines (chlorine plus ammonia) to maintain disinfection throughout it's 600+ mile distribution system.
The use of chlorine to disinfect drinking water dates back to 1908, when Dr. John Leal recommended that chlorine be used to disinfect the municipal water supply in Jersey City to reduce the spread of typhoid fever. Chloramines began being utilized for disinfection in the 1930s.
Since then, chloramines have become a popular disinfection since they provide a longer lasting disinfection and are better at preventing disinfection byproducts. According to the EPA, more than one in five Americans uses drinking water treated with chloramines.
SMWD is devoted to strict compliance with all drinking water laws and monitors chloramine levels throughout the distribution system.
Cloudy water is often caused by air that enters pipes and escapes in the form of oxygen bubbles. Cloudiness created by air bubbles is not a health risk.
Air bubbles are more prevalent in cold months because water from outside pipes is colder and holds more oxygen than water in household pipes. Consequently, when the cold water enters your home and begins to warm up, the oxygen bubbles escape and cause the water to look cloudy or even milky. Construction in the distribution system can also allow air to enter the pipes and cause the appearance of cloudy water.
The air bubbles should naturally disappear in a few minutes. Test this by filling a clear container with water. After a few minutes, the air bubbles rise to the surface and the water should clear up from the bottom to the top of the container.
If the cloudiness does not disappear, please email Customer Service or call 949-459-6420.
The odor you smell is most likely coming from the sink drain and not the water. Over time the plumbing beneath your sink, which is typically a u-shaped pipe, can collect debris and create an odor. If you smell an odor, fill a clean glass with tap water and smell the water in a separate room or outdoors. If the odor is no longer present, the odor is likely from the plumbing beneath your sink. To get rid of the pipe odor, pour about a half cup of liquid bleach into the drain
If the odor is not from the sink drain or the problem persists, please email Customer Service or call 949-459-6420.
The white residue commonly found in showers and kitchenware is the result of dissolved minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium.
SMWD imports a large portion of water from the Colorado River. As the water travels through rock canyons it picks up an appreciable amount of dissolved minerals, which is often referred to as “hard water”. These minerals do not pose a health risk, but may be a nuisance when they buildup on fixtures or hinder detergent performance.
Commercial products are available to remove white residue. SMWD recommends that you read the owner’s manuals for your dishwasher and washing machine for the manufacturer's recommendations regarding settings for mineral buildup or hard water.
On occasion, SMWD receives questions from customers about how to remove the chlorine taste from their water. One method is to fill a pitcher with water and place it in your refrigerator overnight; the trace amounts of chlorine gas in your water will dissipate.
SMWD does not add fluoride to the water supply; however, Metropolitan Water District, the regional wholesale water supplier does add fluoride.
In 1995, AB 733 required the State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Drinking Water (DDW) to adopt regulations that require the fluoridation of the water of any public water system with at least 10,000 service connections. Metropolitan Water District joined the majority of the nation’s public water suppliers by adding fluoride to drinking water in December 2007. MWD’s current fluoride level of 0.7 to 1.3 parts per million follows the recommended range by the DDW.
Every July, SMWD produces an annual Water Quality Report to share the results of water quality testing from the previous calendar year. This year's report is available here and copies are available at the District’s office.
The District tests its drinking water for lead and copper to ensure that levels are below the set limits of the State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Drinking Water (DDW) and USEPA‘s Safe Drinking Water Standards. Lead and copper found in drinking water is primarily from materials used in service lines and home plumbing lines. The District’s most recent testing for lead and copper was performed on September 2015, and levels did not exceed the respective action level in any water samples.
As your local water supplier, we are writing you about communications you may have received regarding copper pitting or “pinhole leaks” in residential plumbing systems. One of our most important jobs is to ensure that the water we deliver to our residents and customers is safe to drink and meets Federal and State water quality standards. Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) has its own significant testing program to ensure that the water delivered to your home meets these standards.
The Watering Index (%) is a simple way to represent and understand plant water needs. It is based on weather conditions, such as: solar radiation, temperature, relative humidity, wind, and other factors. Summer represents 100% of maximum water needed for plants.
Use the chart below, along with site conditions, to find the right watering index value for your yard! Maximize water savings by using the Green Drought Value as a starting point and go up from there.
Many new(er) sprinkler timers have a seasonal adjust option (or % adjust) that you can use. To do so, first program your sprinkler times for summer conditions (100% seasonal adjustment factor). You can then just use the seasonal adjust feature to adjust the watering index to the appropriate percentage. For example, if it's October, you use a watering index of 50-60% and your sprinkler runtimes will automatically be cut by about half based on your summer (100%) schedule.
Most modern sprinkler timers have a feature that lets you use a Watering Index – it is often called a "Seasonal Adjust" or "Water Budget" feature. The Watering Index (%) modifies your sprinkler controller's watering runtimes. It does this by controlling the watering runtimes for all electric valves managed by your sprinkler controller. By adjusting the Watering Index on your sprinkler controller, all your watering runtimes are either increased or decreased. The adjustment is effectively a percentage (%) of the maximum watering runtime allowed by the sprinkler controller for each valve. As an example, if you water for 6 minutes in summer (at a 100% Watering Index), a 50% Watering Index setting would reduce sprinkler runtimes to 3 minutes.
Summer runtimes are defined as having a 100% Watering Index value. You can use your existing summer schedule that you may have already set up. View the Set Up a Base Watering Schedule page for specific information on how to do this.
The Watering Index (%) is a tool to help you adjust watering times for the current weather. The Watering Index (%) suggests when adjustments should be made, but you have to be proactive by paying attention to the health of your landscape. If your plants look stressed after setting your Watering Index (%) on your sprinkler controller (i.e. “Seasonal Adjust” or “Water Budget” feature), then make practical adjustments from there based on what your landscape is telling you. You may increase the Watering Index (%) slightly, or if the issue is specific to a certain sprinkler valve, go back to the sprinkler controller and adjust the runtime for that zone.
For help on how to program your sprinkler controller, consult your controller's instructions, view videos on how to adjust your specific type of sprinkler controller, or also view the Set Up a Base Watering Schedule page.
100% of the drinking (potable) water in the Santa Margarita Water District service area is imported from hundred of miles away. It is purchased from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). The water comes from two sources: the Colorado River Aqueduct, which brings water from the Colorado River to Lake Mathews in Riverside County, and the State Water Project, which is the largest aqueduct system in the world and brings water from Bay-Delta in Northern California. The District is dedicated to developing local, reliable drinking water supplies.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) is a consortium of 26 cities and Water Districts that provides drinking water to nearly 18 million people in parts of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. MWD currently delivers an average of 1.7 billion gallons of water per day to a 5,200 square-mile service area. View more information about MWD.
SMWD’s largest operating cost – about 44% of its budget – is purchasing imported water. As of 2018, SMWD pays just over $1,000 per acre-foot of water (326,000 gallons) from MWD. Unfortunately, SMWD has no direct control over MWD’s rates – which are based on statewide water availability and energy costs.
There are many factors involved in establishing water and wastewater rates, including the current costs of water and energy from our suppliers. Energy costs are significant in SMWD’s service area because of the hilly terrain. The hills make it necessary to pump water up to the communities we serve and then to pump it again to reach wastewater treatment (sewage) facilities.
The SMWD Board of Directors establishes water rates, fees and charges. The Board reviews rates and fees annually (and more frequently if warranted) to ensure the District continues to operate cost-effectively while delivering a safe, reliable water supply to your tap. The review also ensures compliance with stringent wastewater treatment and disposal regulations, and re-use of recycled water for irrigation.
SMWD charges all customers a fixed basic service rate for water, sewer and a sanitation volumetric charge. As of January 1, 2018, SMWD charges all residential accounts with a ¾ inch meter the following rates:
For additional information, view rates for residential and commercial customers.
To encourage conservation and cover the higher cost of buying water from MWD at a higher rate, a tiered rate system for actual units (ccf) used is in place for water usage. This system imposes higher rates on customers who use larger amounts of water. One unit (ccf) equals 748 gallons. The per-unit cost charge covers the water delivery cost. It also covers the cost of treating the water to ensure that it's safe to drink, as well as energy costs for pumping the water to customers.
The first step to reduce water costs is reducing water use, particularly for irrigation (which is typically 60-70% of water use). Customers can lower their bills by implementing conservation techniques and fixing any household leaks. If you suspect a leak or feel that your water bill is extremely high, request an audit. A District representative will visit your home and conduct a thorough review of your water meter, water pressure and irrigation habits. The District will then provide recommendations for conserving water and reducing your monthly bill. For more information on cost savings, learn about our Operation Conservation program, where you can find new ways to save water and money.
Customers pay a power surcharge if they live in an elevated area that requires water to be pumped to their location. The surcharge passes-through the cost the District pays for electricity to pump the water. The surcharge rate is determined by the pumping zone. There are nine pumping zones in the District that are assessed a surcharge. The current surcharge rate can range from $0.26 per ccf to $0.51 per ccf. The rate applies to domestic and non-domestic water.
The District does not have any control over the cost of water purchased from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) through SMWD's wholesale water supplier, Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC). Currently, the district includes a "wholesale pass through charge" of $0.19 per ccf of water usage which reflects the MWD cost increases for water.
The lowest price tier provides the most cost-effective water and sewer rates within SMWD. A single-family residence customer falls under this category when water usage is 0 to 6 ccf (1 ccf = 748 gallons) within one billing cycle. A multi-family residence customer (condominium or apartment) falls under this "first tier" when usage is 0 to 3 ccf within one month's usage. View SMWD's water and sewer rates.
To fund water and sanitation infrastructure for our eight improvement districts, SMWD has issued General Obligation Bonds (with the exception of Talega, which issued Community Facility District bonds to finance the infrastructure). General Obligation Bonds are paid for by the area directly benefitting from the facilities and payments (principal and interest) to the bondholders are collected through the County of Orange Treasurer-Tax Collector's office via property tax bills. SMWD develops the annual tax rates to repay the bonds based on the Treasurer-Tax Collector's assessed value of the land. Property owners may see variances in the tax rates for these Improvement Districts when assessed property values increase or decrease.
SMWD is committed to developing local, reliable drinking water supplies. The District constantly evaluates its water portfolio and potential water supply projects, including the San Juan Watershed Project which has the capacity to provide 5.6 billion gallons of local, reliable water to South Orange County residents - enough water for 50,000 families each year.
SMWD is also a leader in using recycled water for landscape irrigation and has been successful in obtaining water from additional sources in the local area to supplement supply. The District uses recycled water for irrigation of slopes, parks, golf courses, schools and medians within its service area. Water is recycled at SMWD's three treatment plants, producing over 2 billion gallons of recycled water each year for landscape irrigation to homeowner associations and other municipalities within the District. In addition, SMWD collects urban return (runoff) water from Oso Creek, Dove Creek, and Horno Creek to blend with the recycled water as an additional source for irrigation. The use of recycled water and urban return flows from the creeks offset the need to import drinking water from MWD for irrigation.
Gray water includes wastewater from showers, bathtubs, bathroom sinks, laundry tubs and washing machines, but not from toilets, kitchen sinks or dishwashers. The latter sources typically have high bacterial content, making them unsuitable for irrigation. Gray water comprises 50 - 80% of residential wastewater. California regulators have recently loosened the requirements for using gray water for certain irrigation purposes by issuing an emergency decision that allows residents to create simple water-reuse systems without a construction permit. View more information about California's new standards for gray-water systems (PDF).
The Rules and Regulations for Water, Recycled Water and Wastewater Service of the Santa Margarita Water District include the criteria by which water, recycled water and wastewater service is provided to customers in the SMWD service area. Section 6 of the Rules and Regulations deal specifically with Billing Procedures, Regulations, Rates and Charges. View SMWD's Rules and Regulations (PDF).