May 13, 2015

Santa Margarita Water District Directors Approve Comprehensive Plan to Reduce Water Use in Response to State Order

Santa Margarita Water District Directors on Monday approved a comprehensive plan to meet the state’s mandatory 24 percent reduction in water use.  The plan includes new recycled-water systems construction, outreach efforts to help customers convert to more efficient irrigation and plumbing systems and even sending representatives door-to-door to stress the importance of using less water.

The District’s primary message to residents is to cut their outdoor water use by half.

The actions approved unanimously Monday include:

  • Spending $1.9 million to potentially boost turf-removal rebates, and to hire additional inspectors to speed up turf removals, toilet replacement and other water-use efficiency projects.
  •  Hiring a specialized firm to come in and inspect the SMWD system for any water loss. A neighboring water district recently performed the tests and found a 9 percent loss.
  • Changing the top 150 largest water users, HOAs, to AMI meters, which allow real-time monitoring of water use for precise irrigation practices.
  • Additionally, the District will expand the WaterSmart pilot project, which sends customers detailed bills that show their water consumption compared to that in similar-sized homes.
  • Spending $30 million over the next two fiscal years on recycled water conversions, including projects that will bring recycled water to the city of Rancho Santa Margarita for the first time and eliminate the use of drinking water in Lake Mission Viejo. All of these projects will save 2,470 acre feet of water annually – enough for 5,400 families. The District will seek grants and low-interest loans to help pay for the projects.

But even with those steps, customers will still play the biggest role in the District meeting the state mandate, and avoiding a potential $10,000 fine. SMWD is launching an extensive outreach campaign that will involve door-to-door canvassing in areas that use above-average amounts of water to reinforce how serious the drought is and offer information on how they can be more water efficient.

In Coto de Caza, SMWD will hold living room dialogues in homes to discuss the importance of water efficiency. Water-saving messages will also be featured in SMWD television commercials.

The state’s reduction order takes effect in June; the District, which serves 165,000 residents, must begin to meet the reductions immediately. Because the reduction is cumulative through the year, if SMWD falls behind in the summer months when water use is highest, it will be virtually impossible to “catch up” and meet the mandate in the cooler fall and winter months, when water use is already lower.

For information about rebates on water-efficient steps around the home, see www.smwd.com/rebates. The District also recently launched a web page featuring water-efficient plants at www.smwd.com/plants

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