Recycled Water

A tremendous amount of effort is required to import water into Southern California.  It is too valuable to use only once.  Recycled water is central to the District’s water conservation program and improving the region’s water supply reliability.

The District benefits from investing in the development, storage, and distribution of recycled water.  Benefits include:

  • Extending drinking water supplies
  • Reduces our reliance on expensive and drought-susceptible imported water supplies
  • Reduces the volume of treated wastewater discharged into the ocean
  • Steady drought-resistant supply that maintains health and aesthetics of community landscapes

What is Recycled Water?

Recycled water is a product of highly treated wastewater that can be beneficially reused for specific non-drinking purposes. Wastewater that is purified through primary, secondary and tertiary treatment can be used for landscape irrigation and commercial processes, as defined by California Title 22 requirements for recycled water.  The District’s recycled water system is primarily used for landscape irrigation.

Recycled Water Distribution System

SMWD has invested in a dual water distribution system:  one set of pipes and storage tanks for drinking water and another set for recycled water.  Recycled water distribution systems can be easily identified by the purple pipe used exclusively to maintain the separation of drinking water and recycled water.  Recycled water is produced at one of the District’s three wastewater reclamation plants and stored in the Upper Oso Seasonal Storage Reservoir, as well as other reservoirs throughout the District

The District delivers recycled water to parks, medians, slopes, golf courses, and schools in Mission Viejo, Coto de Caza, Las Flores, Ladera Ranch, the Village of Sendero and Esencia, and the Talega community in San Clemente.

Safety of Recycled Water

All recycled water produced by SMWD for irrigation meets, or exceeds, the stringent recycled water quality requirements for California as established by Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations, administered by the State Water Resources Control Board.

Recycled Water Expansion & Innovation

A strategic long-term goal of the District’s is to reuse 100% of the wastewater treated at the District’s facilities.  Doing so would result in recycled water providing 30% of the District’s total water demand.  The District is committed to innovative and cost-effective projects to realize this goal.

In 2017, the District completed the Lake Mission Viejo Advanced Water Treatment Facility (AWTF), which can produce up to 300 acre feet (AF, where 1 AF = 325,851 gallons) of highly treated water for delivery to Lake Mission Viejo.  This project is a significant achievement in providing uninterrupted water service to the Lake.  Space in the ATWF allows the District to partner with the scientific and academic community to bench-test innovative technologies and treatment processes.

In 2018, the District will begin work on the Trampas Canyon Recycled Water Seasonal Storage Reservoir to store over 1.6 billion gallons of recycled water.  Currently, when irrigation demands are low in winter, treated wastewater is directed to the ocean and "lost" for the District to beneficially reuse  Optimizing production and storage of recycled water will improve supply reliability and facilitate expansion of recycled water to communities currently without recycled water, like Rancho Santa Margarita.  

Recycyled Water Lawn Sign_crop


Recycled water meets a quarter of SMWD's water demands

Uses of Recycled Water

The District uses Recycled Water for:
  • Irrigation (parks, golf courses, HOA common areas)
  • Construction (dust control and grading)
  • Lake fill (Lake Mission Viejo)
  • SMWD Buildings (toilet flushing)

Recycled Water, By the Numbers

The District's Recycled Water System:
  • 1,500 recycled water users
  • avg demand of 2.2 Billion Gallons per Year
  • 130+ miles of distribution pipeline
  • 8 storage tanks
  • 2 open air reservoirs
  • 4,566 Acre-Feet of storage (1.5 billion gallons)
  • 14 pump stations
  • Operate 3 Wastewater Reclamation Plants to produce Recycled Water
  • 25% of District's total water demand is met by Recycled Water
  • District goal is to reach 30% recycled water by recyling 100% of its wastewater flows

Recycled Water User Requirements, Irrigation Plan Requirements, & Rates