San Juan Capistrano

Prioritizing Your Pipes

For nearly 60 years, Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) has been providing southern Orange County with safe and reliable drinking water, recycled water, and wastewater services. 

Investing in infrastructure and maintenance is a cornerstone to SMWD’s dedication of providing responsible and reliable water services for the community.

Since SMWD began serving San Juan Capistrano customers in 2021, we have invested $7 million in infrastructure improvements and maintenance.

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.

Investing in San Juan Capistrano

SMWD hit the ground running in 2021, 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

Due to the City’s “antiquated and historic” water and sewer infrastructure system, SMWD estimates more than $40 million will still be required to rehabilitate, repair and bring the system into the 21st century.

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 complete list of the proposed rates may be viewed in the ID9 Proposition 218 Notice. The bill calculator provides a convenient way to estimate your bill based on the proposed rates. If rates are approved on July 12, they will go into effect on August 1, 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 

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

Public Hearing

  • July 12 at 6 PM at SMWD Headquarters  

Rate Calculator

undefined Opens in new windowResidential customers may use the rate calculator to estimate their monthly water and wastewater bill.

Over the Last Year SMWD has:

Cleaned all drinking water reservoirs

Cleaned 59 miles of sewer

Repaired 3 major breaks, and more!

Increased groundwater plant production by 20%

Proposed Rates for San Juan Capistrano (2023)

The charts below show the proposed 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 is proposed to be collected through property tax bills. The proposed capital charges for the upcoming year are: 

  • Single-family residential:  $277.09 
  • Multi-family residential with their own meter: $259.93 

See the complete list of the proposed rates by viewing the ID9 Proposition 218 Notice

Potable Water Commodity Rates (Cost per CCF)

Single & Multi-Family Customers

Tier LevelRateProposed Rate (August 1), 2023Proposed Rate (July 1), 2024
Tier 1$3.66$3.42$3.51
Tier 2$5.79$3.43$3.52
Tier 3$6.28$3.71$3.80
Tier 4$6.28$4.76$4.87

Potable Water Fixed Base Charge (Cost per Meter Size)

Water Line SizeRateProposed Rate (August 1), 2023Proposed Rate (July 1), 2024
3/4-inch Residential$26.82$27.72$31.74
1-inch Residential$37.38$27.72$31.74
1 1/2-inch$53.11$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 TypeRateProposed Rate (August 1), 2023Proposed Rate (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 TypeRateProposed Rate (August 1), 2023Proposed Rate (July 1), 2024
Multi-Family Single Meter$19.83$21.06$23.42
Multi-Family Common Meter, per Account$19.83$10.15$10.94
Multi-Family Common Meter, per Dwelling Unit$14.40$10.91$12.48

Need Help Paying Your Bill?

Recognizing the impact that rate adjustments can have on customers, the Board of Directors approved a customer assistance program for its customers.

Commercial Customer Assistance Pilot Program

The commercial pilot assistance program is available to all commercial customers whose bills have increased significantly due to a rate change.  There are two levels of assistance available to eligible commercial customers who apply for the program. 

 Program Requirements: 

  • Current SMWD commercial customers only 
  • “Significantly impacted” customers are those with at least a 40% total bill increase (of at least $500 per month). Eligible customers who apply can receive a 50% credit of the impact.
  • “Severely impacted” customers are those with at least a 200% total bill increase (of at least $500 per month). Eligible customers who apply can receive a 75% credit of the impact.

Apply today! Complete the online application (coming soon)

Credits will appear on customer bills within the next billing cycle after an application is approved, for up to 1 year after the rate change.


Residential Customer Assistance Pilot Program 

Effective January 1, 2024, the pilot assistance program will be available to all SMWD 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 two months for processing.

Where the Water Meets the Pipe
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Develop New Water Supplies
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Drought-proof Water Supplies
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