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Posted on: July 13, 2022

What You Should Know About California’s Severe Drought


The people of California are in the grip of a historic drought that may become the most severe in state history. Conditions are especially bad in areas dependent on water from Northern California and the Colorado River.


A recent survey of Santa Margarita Water District customers showed that most of you are worried about the drought. Dry conditions have already led to water restrictions and raised concerns about the future availability of water.


The Santa Margarita Water District is one of many agencies in California that are taking measures to address the state's drought. The district has imposed new water restrictions and is working to increase its water supply through various projects. SMWD customers are asked to pitch in and help reduce water use this summer.


How bad is the current drought in California?

It’s severe, spanning the entire state of California. The latest map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that 97% of the state is in a severe drought. Weather records tell us that this year is the third driest in the state’s history.


The levels of Lake Mead and Lake Powell, two massive reservoirs on the Colorado River, are at their lowest levels ever since being filled. California, Arizona, and Nevada may face cutbacks in supplies.


Shasta Lake, the largest reservoir in California, is at critically low levels. The Sierra snowpack is gone, and runoff into the state’s streams and reservoirs has peaked for the year. California’s water supply is critical as we move through the hot and dry summer months.


What are the challenges facing SMWD?

Most water delivered to SMWD customers’ homes is imported from Northern California and the Colorado River. The severe drought limits the amount of water we can count on from both sources.


SMWD has invested about $66 million in water storage and resiliency projects in just the last four years. Recently, SMWD completed the annexation of the city of San Juan Capistrano’s water and sewer utility that includes the San Juan Groundwater Plant, began filling Orange County’s largest recycled water reservoir at Trampas Canyon, and is ready to construct its first drinking water treatment plant, the Ranch Water Filtration Plant. These actions build on decades of planning and strategic focus on reducing dependence on imported water.


The ongoing drought has made SMWD’s efforts more critical and timely. In the latest survey, 89% of respondents supported investment in major water infrastructure and 91% said we needed to invest in developing local water supplies.


What are residents and businesses doing to save water?

SMWD has asked customers to voluntarily reduce their drinking water use by 15% through a new outreach campaign called “In a Drought, Help Out.” People are responding very positively. Based on survey results, more than half believe their actions matter during this drought.


SMWD is focused on education and collaboration rather than enforcement. The district works collaboratively with customers, particularly customers with extensive outdoor landscaping, to limit outdoor watering to three times per week. They’re also encouraged to make other changes to their landscaping, such as replacing lawns with drought-tolerant plants.


Some good news during these severe conditions is that water use within the SMWD service area is down by 10%, despite a population increase of 12% since 2019.


What are some water-saving tips I can use?

Some water-saving actions may seem small, but we all must do our part to conserve water. Here are a few water-saving tips that can make a big difference:


  • Find and fix leaks within 48 hours. Water leaks can waste a lot of water, so fixing them as soon as possible is essential. Check out our DIY Leak Checklist and helpful videos (3 Easy Steps: is the leak inside or outside? and Fix a Toilet Leak) to learn more about how to stop leaks.
  • Limit watering to three times a week. Watering your lawn or garden more than necessary can damage plants.
  • Preserve trees by watering them one or two times a month. Trees are essential for the environment, so it's important to give them the water they need without overdoing it.
  • Apply mulch. Mulch helps to retain moisture in the soil, so using it can help reduce watering frequency.
  • Use a broom, not a hose, to clean outdoor areas. A hose can use a lot of water, so it's better to use a broom to clean up debris.
  • Take five-minute showers. Shorter showers use less water and save energy as well.
  • Turn off the water when brushing your teeth. This is an easy way to save water every day.


We’re here to help! 

Santa Margarita Water District is doing everything it can to help you conserve water. In addition to the education and outreach we’re providing, we also have several rebates available for customers who change their landscaping or install drought-tolerant plants. For more information on our water-saving rebates, please visit our website or call us at (949) 459-5420 .


We hope that by working together we can get through this historic drought and keep our community healthy and beautiful. Thank you for your continued support!

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