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Posted on: January 22, 2023

The Rain Helped, But We're Not Out of the Drought


The recent storms dropped an average of over 5” of rain on the Santa Margarita Water District service area. Between January 12 and 16 alone, we received between 2 and 4.5 inches of rain across the region. SMWD’s Talega weather station measured 7.5 inches; the Coto de Caza station measured over 5 inches. Compare that to 2022 when we received just 10 inches of rain for the entire year.   

The rain certainly helped increase local water storage levels.  SMWD's recycled water storage increased by 274.6 million gallons since January 1st. 

Our newest reservoir, Trampas Canyon, located off Ortega Highway, saw a 91.5-million-gallon increase in volume as it continues to fill up toward total capacity of 1.6 billion gallons. 

The Upper Oso Reservoir, affectionally known as Boy Scout Lake off CA-241 and Los Alisos, increased by 165.7 million gallons, and the district’s smallest reservoir, Portola, located in Coto de Caza increased by 17.4 million gallons. 

All three reservoirs are seasonal storage, meaning that they store recycled water in the cooler, rainy months for use in the dry, hot months when its needed. SMWD typically stores 2-5 million gallons of recycled water a day in its three open-air reservoirs, but an additional 150 million gallons was able to be stored because of the rain and conservation actions by our customers.    

Throughout California, critically important drinking water reservoirs have reached almost normal levels for this time of year, but we’re not in the clear just yet. Lake Powell and Lake Mead on the Colorado River are still 70% empty. Several inches of rain cannot make up for the last three years of record dry conditions. January through March of last year were the driest on record. We need this February and March to be cool and rainy to move us further away from severe drought conditions.
While the reservoirs captured rain and storm runoff, we still need to be diligent about how and when we use water. The ground is soaked, so you can turn off your irrigation systems for 2-3 weeks! The rule of thumb is that for every half-inch of rain, you can hold off on irrigation for one week.  No need to water until early February – or longer if the rain continues!
For more tips and information about efficient water use in and around your home visit

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