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Posted on: March 4, 2022

The Rain Is Helping, But We Need More


Imagine not getting paid for a year or two. Would one paycheck put your bank account back to normal? 

The answer is "no", and the same is true for California's water supply during drought. A few rainstorms or even a wet winter makes a positive difference, but they won't end a multi-year drought.

We import nearly all of our drinking water and we rely on snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada and Rocky mountains to replenish the sources of our water. Early winter storms offered a strong start to the state's traditional rainy season with snowpack at 160% of average for this date. Today, major reservoirs are still lower than where they need to be , meaning that we need a miracle March just to get back to average.  All water providers in California are in emergency drought conditions and have been asked to reduce water consumption by 15%. Water shortages have been declared by wholesale water agencies like the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California which provides drinking water to 19 million people in southern California, including Santa Margarita Water District. 

To return to the paycheck metaphor, think about how you might use your money more efficiently by saving some each month instead of spending it. That way, you would have a more robust bank account as a safety net to fall back upon when you need it.

Saving water is no different with state, regional, and local water reservoirs and underground aquifers serving as our bank accounts. Droughts are becoming part of the normal weather cycle for Californians so we save water in our reservoirs when rain comes in the winter and use the water during summer months when weather is dry. We can be proud that our water demand has stayed at a lower level than five years ago, but we all need to continue to do our part to use water as efficiently as we can.

Over the years, there have been many local conservation and infrastructure improvements to help manage during droughts. Nestled in the slope of Chiquita Canyon, just north of Oso Parkway and Los Patrones Parkway, is a 244-million-gallon emergency drinking water reservoir. Orange County’s largest recycled water reservoir, Trampas Canyon (located off Ortega Highway) has the capacity to store 1.6 billion gallons of recycled water for irrigating common area landscape throughout the service area.   Just off the 241 tollway is our Upper Oso recycled water reservoir. It has a capacity of 1.3 billion gallons for irrigation and construction.  

For most of us, conservation may mean simply sticking to the water budgets SMWD has set for your home. It also means doing things like finding and fixing leaks quickly, limiting outdoor water use appropriately for the season, and keeping pools and spas covered to reduce water evaporation. If you have old or inefficient toilets, clothes washers, or irrigation equipment you should invest in water-efficient alternatives.  Rebates are available to help save money, too.

No one knows what our water future holds. If drier conditions prevail, what we do today could make a real difference. Water conservation and efficient usage will help preserve our resources. The future needs us!

The California Department of Water Resources launched a new website for the public to track local, regional, and statewide water conditions, visit for updates. 

Best Practices during a Moderate Water Shortage
Stage 2 of 6

  • Turn off irrigation system during or after rainfall for 48 hours
  • Water between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. 
  • Use a broom to clean driveways and patios  
  • Fix leaks within 48 hours 
  • Filling or refilling decorative water features that use potable (drinking water) water is prohibited
  • Public medians must use recycled water
    • Mission Viejo, Ladera Ranch, Coto De Caza, Rancho Mission Viejo, and Talega use recycled water for common areas 
  • Check our more local resources and start saving water today!

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