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Backflow is the undesirable reversal of flow of water into the potable water system, which can cause contamination or pollution. There are many situations that can trigger a backflow event, where potentially harmful substances can enter the potable water system. Backflow assemblies are installed to prevent such events from occurring.
Generally, it is located behind the water meter near the street for most residential applications. In commercial applications, there may be internal backflow assemblies near potential hazards in addition to the assembly at the meter. This is to provide an extra level of protection to the water distribution system in case the external assembly at the meter is not functioning.
Title 17 of the California Administrative Code and the Santa Margarita Water District’s Rules and Regulations require that backflow assemblies be tested on an annual basis. The backflow test is to ensure the assembly is functioning properly to prevent contamination or pollution of the potable water supply.
A backflow assembly may be tested by any backflow tester currently certified through the Orange County Health Care Agency. Please refer to our Backflow webpage for more information on testing and reporting.
Typically, the backflow tester’s name and number who performed the previous year’s test at the property is listed on the front page of the backflow test letter above the assembly information. You may also contact a backflow tester from the approved list provided. The backflow test letter is sent out at the beginning of the month the test is due and comes with a test report form for each backflow assembly at the property. The report forms are given to the tester upon arrival, who will perform the test, complete the forms, and return the forms via email or fax to SMWD by the end of the test month. SMWD forms and instructions can be found on our Backflow webpage.
It is the responsibility of the property owner, unless an agreement between owner and tenant exists, to maintain and test backflow assemblies. Orange County Health Department maintains a list (click here) of certified backflow testers that can test, maintain, and repair backflow assemblies. Please also refer to our SMWD Backflow webpage for forms and instructions.
The process for bond exoneration/tract acceptance can begin as soon as the necessary documents become available. However, construction must be complete for the entire tract to finalize the process. Documents can be submitted proactively to reduce lag time.
Generally speaking, most items listed in the Construction Notes from the tract record drawing should be included in the Cost of Construction, except items that are:
Examples of items NOT to be included in Cost of Construction:
A contract between the District and the permit holder (permittee) explaining the terms and conditions under which the permittee is granted the permissive authority to perform one or more of the following:
In order for the District to ensure all work is done consistent with established District standards and design criteria. More specifically the permit is required by the District:
At a minimum, the following will be required, additional information may be required depending on the nature of the work:
Depending on workload and complexity of the project, allow for a minimum of 10 business days.
The Recycled Water Use Exhibit (RWU Exhibit) is to provide a simplified plan of the irrigation system to identify pertinent site, irrigation, and civil improvement information to aid the plan review by District staff as well as State Department of Drinking Water and the Orange County Department of Environmental Health. All submitted recycled water irrigation plans must include the RWU Exhibit as part of the submitted plan set.
All on-site irrigation systems that use or plan to use recycled water must be reviewed and approved by the District’s Chief Engineer to ensure the project complies with the District’s Technical Requirements for Recycled Water Service. Please consult the recycled water irrigation plan review and approval flowchart. A review and inspection fee of 4% is required. The following documents need to be submitted:
At the time of plans are submitted to the District, the applicant shall make a nonrefundable plan review fee deposit based on 2.0 percent of the estimated construction cost of the recycled irrigation facilities. A minimum deposit of $200 will be required on all projects. Prior to approval of the irrigation plans by the District, the applicant shall pay the final plan review and inspection fee, which will be based on 4.0 percent of the estimated construction cost of the system. The estimated cost will be prepared by the applicant and submitted for review by the District. The minimum fee shall be $400. The applicant will be given credit for the plan review fee deposit. The percentage and/or minimum fee may be revised by the District without prior notice to the applicant. Fees shall be paid prior to the approval of plans.
Yes. Soon after your facility begins operations, an SMWD FOG Inspector will conduct an inspection of your facility to assist you with your understanding of the Program. Routine FOG inspections are then conducted on a regular basis to ensure continued compliance with the FOG Program rules and regulations.
A Gravity Grease Interceptor is required if your establishment is:
Gravity Grease Interceptor sizing is based on the drainage fixture units (DFU) connected to the Gravity Grease Interceptor, pursuant to the current California Plumbing Code (CPC). In most cases an architect, plumbing engineer, or plumbing contractor can assist with determining the necessary Gravity Grease Interceptor size. You may consult this Grease Interceptor sizing sheet.
No. Garbage disposals or food grinders are not allowed in food service establishments.
All potential grease bearing fixtures and drains (cooking equipment drains, pot sinks, 3-comp sinks, mop sinks, dishwasher pre-rinse sinks, prep sinks, floor sinks, or floor drains) in the food preparation, cooking, and cleanup areas of the facility are required to be connected to the Gravity Grease Interceptor.
Drainage from automatic dishwashers or restrooms should not be connected to the Gravity Grease Interceptor. Note: the dishwasher pre-rinse sink must be connected to the Gravity Grease Interceptor.
The Gravity Grease Interceptor configuration must provide access for maintenance and inspection of the inlet, outlet and baffle tees and should include a sample box. Depending on the Gravity Grease Interceptor size and manufacturer, the Gravity Grease Interceptor may require three (3) access openings (excluding the sample box) to provide the required access. You should consult with you interceptor manufacturer to identify a Gravity Grease Interceptor configuration that meets these requirements.
Over 50% of a home’s water use occurs outdoors, primarily for irrigation. How often and long you water plants affects both plant health and your water bill. To find resources on what type of sprinkler timer you have and how to control it, use this great website:
Additional information on outdoor watering can be found on our site: www.smwd.com/watering
A water pressure regulator is a safety feature designed to prevent the water pressure inside your home from climbing too high or falling too low. Building codes require builders to install a water pressure regulator on homes when the street mainline pressure exceeds 80 psi (pounds per square inch). Most regulators are pre-set by manufacturers at 45 to 60 psi, which is the optimal pressure.
Most water pressure regulators have an adjustment nut that can be used to increase or decrease the water pressure. Incorrectly adjusting the regulator could cause water pressure to become too high or too low. Unfortunately, SMWD is unable to adjust pressure regulators because they are considered to be the homeowner’s private property. If an adjustment cannot be made to your regulator, it may need to be replaced. You may want to contact a local plumbing supply store or a plumbing professional for assistance.
The water pressure regulator is a bell shaped device often located on the main line inlet pipe, usually near the house shut-off valve (customer valve) outside the home. If you have one it is very important to know where it is and how to check it.
Advanced Treated Water is recycled water that has received additional levels of treatment to polish the water to the Lake Mission Viejo Association’s water quality specifications.
Yes, Advanced Treated Water is safe for recreational activities, including swimming, at Lake Mission Viejo.
Prior to the extra treatment, Santa Margarita Water District’s recycled water meets state and federal health regulations for swimming lakes (Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations).
While no ill effects would be anticipated from consuming APW, it is not yet approved for human consumption.
SMWD currently produces recycled water that is treated to standards for irrigation and other unrestricted non-potable uses in accordance with Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations (“Title 22”); including for use in recreational lakes.
LVMA currently purchases Title 22 recycled water from SMWD for irrigation and while Title 22 water can legally be used in the Lake, LVMA has determined that a higher water quality is desirable to maintain the lake quality to support the various recreational uses of the Lake by LVMA members. The District, in consultation with LVMA, has determined that with additional treatment infrastructure, it can produce higher quality recycled water to such standards and in adequate quantities as are necessary to meet the needs of LVMA at the Lake.
The projected is expected to cost $5 million. The project is estimated to pay a premium for the water for 20-25 years.
The Lake Mission Viejo Association will pay the capital costs of the ATW treatment facility and for the water that is ultimately delivered for use in the lake.
Delegates representing the 81 neighborhoods within the 24,217-home Lake Mission Viejo Association voted unanimously to switch to Advanced Treated Water for lake refill and end nearly 40 years of using potable (drinking) water to maintain water levels in the 124-acre Orange County lake. In all, delegates cast 19,803 votes – representing 82 percent of the Association’s homeowners – all in favor of the Association working with the Santa Margarita Water District to construct a new treatment plant to produce Advanced Treated Water for the lake.
The project is completed. Lake Mission Viejo is being filled with Advanced Treated Water, as needed.
SMWD’s top priority is to ensure the safety of your drinking water. The District operates a State-certified water quality laboratory with certified laboratory analysts performing over 18,000 drinking water analyses annually. SMWD has a State permit to monitor and test the water quality within its distribution system which stretches from El Toro Road in Lake Forest to Avenida Pico in San Clemente.
Results of the District’s water quality analyses are published annually in our Consumer Confidence Report which can be found on our website here. We are proud that our water continues to meet or surpass all Federal and State drinking water standards.
The District’s Board of Directors has a Water Quality and Treatment Committee that meets monthly and focuses on water quality throughout the service area. The Committee has been a part of cutting-edge research on water quality monitoring using advanced molecular biology testing and working closely with multiple universities to evaluate emerging contaminants.
The vast majority of the District’s drinking water is imported from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California which supplies water to nearly 19 million people from Ventura County to San Diego County. They operate one of the most advanced water quality laboratories in the world where they conduct over 200,000 water quality tests each year.
California has also developed Public Health Goals (PHGs) for water contaminants that are used by the State in setting MCLs. PHGs are not regulated limits, they are goals developed by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). The PHG value is a theoretical estimate where no known or anticipated adverse effect on the health of persons would occur if a consumer was to drink two liters of water daily for 70 years. PHGs are unique to California and are comparable in concept to the EPA’s Maximum Containment Level Goals (MCLGs).
It is important to note that PHGs do not consider whether the level is technologically or economically feasible or even measurable. The role of the PHG is to be utilized to ensure that MCLs are set "as close as possible" to the corresponding PHG with the primary emphasis on the protection of public health but also considering technological and economic feasibility.
Federal: The Safe Drinking Water Act established the authority of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set regulations for drinking water quality. These standards cover microorganisms, disinfectants, disinfection by-products, inorganic chemicals, and radionuclides. The EPA sets the maximum containment levels (MCL) for regulated contaminants that a utility must meet. Water utilities and the EPA are constantly scanning water for newly identified compounds to determine if additional regulations are necessary. SMWD participates in this effort by analyzing for these unregulated compounds. The last revision made to the Safe Drinking Water Act was a revision to the Total Coliform Rule in 2013 and has indicated that regulations related to PFAS are being worked on currently.
State: The State of California can also establish and enforce regulations because the EPA has approved California to administer regulations in a concept known as primacy. California’s regulations are established by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and must be at least as stringent as those established by the EPA. The SWRCB produced this 2018 report which details both the Federal and State standards. The SWRCB is responsible for setting the MCL “as close as feasible” to the corresponding public health goal (PHG) with primary emphasis on the protection of public health but also considering technological and economic feasibility. Additionally, each primary drinking water standard must be reviewed at least every five years to determine if technology or treatment techniques have changed. The State has produced this website which details the review process.
Trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids are by-products of the disinfection process. Water is disinfected to protect against a wide variety of disease-causing organisms such as cholera, hepatitis and dysentery. Disinfectants react with small amounts of naturally occurring matter and produce trace levels of these by-products. The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is responsible for developing Public Health Goals (PHGs) and they state, "The use of chemical disinfectants in water treatment usually results in the formation of chemical by-products. However, the risks to health from these byproducts are extremely small in comparison with the risks associated with inadequate disinfection, and it is important that the disinfection efficacy not be compromised in attempting to control such by-products.”1 The Centers for Disease Control website provides further information on disinfection byproducts.
Regardless, SMWD has taken several steps to reduce the levels of these by-products in the drinking water system. The vast majority of the District’s drinking water is treated with ozonation which limits the formation of these compounds. Additionally, SMWD utilizes chloramines in the distribution system which limits the formation of by-products while also preserving the microbiological quality of the water.
If you would like additional water testing of your home or business, contact an independent laboratory accredited through the State’s Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP). The State has a helpful tool located here to assist you in finding a certified commercial lab.
Independent water quality testing cannot be performed at SMWD’s water quality laboratory.
While it varies on the time of year and drought conditions, much of the water in Southern California including SMWD, is generally considered hard. Hard water means that it has higher levels of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. These are naturally occurring minerals found in the Colorado River which is one of SMWD’s primary drinking water sources. The State Water Resources Control Board and the US Environmental Protection Agency both consider hard water only an aesthetic issue and is completely safe to drink.
The white residue commonly found in showers and kitchenware is the result of dissolved minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium.
SMWD imports a large portion of water from the Colorado River. As the water travels through rock canyons it picks up an appreciable amount of dissolved minerals, which is often referred to as “hard water”. These minerals do not pose a health risk, but may be a nuisance when they buildup on fixtures or hinder detergent performance.
Commercial products are available to remove white residue. SMWD recommends that you read the owner’s manuals for your dishwasher and washing machine for the manufacturer's recommendations regarding settings for mineral buildup or hard water.
Cloudy water is often caused by air that enters pipes and escapes in the form of oxygen bubbles.
Air bubbles are more prevalent in cold months because water from outside pipes is colder and holds more oxygen than water in household pipes. Consequently, when the cold water enters your home and begins to warm up, the oxygen bubbles escape and cause the water to look cloudy or even milky. Construction in the distribution system can also allow air to enter the pipes and cause the appearance of cloudy water.
The air bubbles should naturally disappear in a few minutes. Test this by filling a clear container with water. After a few minutes, the air bubbles rise to the surface and the water should clear up from the bottom to the top of the container.
If the cloudiness does not disappear, please email Customer Service or call 949-459-6420.
SMWD relies 100% on imported drinking water which comes from the Colorado River and Northern California. Because these sources are surface water supplies, there is an extremely low risk of PFAS contamination compared to groundwater sources near industrial areas, airports, and landfills. SMWD has performed PFAS testing on various points of the imported water system and found that all of the PFAS chemicals were either not detected or were below the detection limit of 2 parts per trillion. For reference, a part per trillion is an exceedingly small amount equivalent to adding ten drops of liquid into a container the size of the Rose Bowl.
While there are over 5,000 chemicals classified as PFAS, the Federal and State regulators are focused on two of the most frequently detected PFAS chemicals: PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (Perfluorooctyl sulfonic Acid). The EPA set an advisory level for the sum of PFOA and PFOS at 70 parts per trillion while the State set a notification level for 5.1 parts per trillion for PFOA and 6.5 parts per trillion for PFAS.
The odor you smell is most likely coming from the sink drain and not the water. Over time the plumbing beneath your sink, which is typically a u-shaped pipe, can collect debris and create an odor. If you smell an odor, fill a clean glass with tap water and smell the water in a separate room or outdoors. If the odor is no longer present, the odor is likely from the plumbing beneath your sink.
If the odor is not from the sink drain or the problem persists, please email Customer Service or call 949-459-6420.
The Watering Index (%) is a simple way to represent and understand plant water needs. It is based on weather conditions, such as: solar radiation, temperature, relative humidity, wind, and other factors. Summer represents 100% of maximum water needed for plants.
Use the chart below, along with site conditions, to find the right watering index value for your yard! Maximize water savings by using the Green Drought Value as a starting point and go up from there.
Many new(er) sprinkler timers have a seasonal adjust option (or % adjust) that you can use. To do so, first program your sprinkler times for summer conditions (100% seasonal adjustment factor). You can then just use the seasonal adjust feature to adjust the watering index to the appropriate percentage. For example, if it’s October, you use a watering index of 50-60% and your sprinkler runtimes will automatically be cut by about half based on your summer (100%) schedule.
Most modern sprinkler timers have a feature that lets you use a Watering Index – it is often called a "Seasonal Adjust" or "Water Budget" feature. The Watering Index (%) modifies your sprinkler controller's watering runtimes. It does this by controlling the watering runtimes for all electric valves managed by your sprinkler controller. By adjusting the Watering Index on your sprinkler controller, all your watering runtimes are either increased or decreased. The adjustment is effectively a percentage (%) of the maximum watering runtime allowed by the sprinkler controller for each valve. As an example, if you water for 6 minutes in summer (at a 100% Watering Index), a 50% Watering Index setting would reduce sprinkler runtimes to 3 minutes.
Summer runtimes are defined as having a 100% Watering Index value. You can use your existing summer schedule that you may have already set up. View the Set Up a Base Watering Schedule page for specific information on how to do this.
The Watering Index (%) is a tool to help you adjust watering times for the current weather. The Watering Index (%) suggests when adjustments should be made, but you have to be proactive by paying attention to the health of your landscape. If your plants look stressed after setting your Watering Index (%) on your sprinkler controller (i.e. “Seasonal Adjust” or “Water Budget” feature), then make practical adjustments from there based on what your landscape is telling you. You may increase the Watering Index (%) slightly, or if the issue is specific to a certain sprinkler valve, go back to the sprinkler controller and adjust the runtime for that zone.
For help on how to program your sprinkler controller, consult your controller's instructions, view videos on how to adjust your specific type of sprinkler controller, or also view the Set Up a Base Watering Schedule page.
100% of the drinking (potable) water in the Santa Margarita Water District service area is imported from hundred of miles away. It is purchased from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). The water comes from two sources: the Colorado River Aqueduct, which brings water from the Colorado River to Lake Mathews in Riverside County, and the State Water Project, which is the largest aqueduct system in the world and brings water from Bay-Delta in Northern California. The District is dedicated to developing local, reliable drinking water supplies.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) is a consortium of 26 cities and Water Districts that provides drinking water to nearly 18 million people in parts of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. MWD currently delivers an average of 1.7 billion gallons of water per day to a 5,200 square-mile service area. View more information about MWD.
SMWD’s largest operating cost – about 44% of its budget – is purchasing imported water. As of 2018, SMWD pays just over $1,000 per acre-foot of water (326,000 gallons) from MWD. Unfortunately, SMWD has no direct control over MWD’s rates – which are based on statewide water availability and energy costs.
There are many factors involved in establishing water and wastewater rates, including the current costs of water and energy from our suppliers. Energy costs are significant in SMWD’s service area because of the hilly terrain. The hills make it necessary to pump water up to the communities we serve and then to pump it again to reach wastewater treatment (sewage) facilities.
The SMWD Board of Directors establishes water rates, fees and charges. The Board reviews rates and fees annually (and more frequently if warranted) to ensure the District continues to operate cost-effectively while delivering a safe, reliable water supply to your tap. The review also ensures compliance with stringent wastewater treatment and disposal regulations, and re-use of recycled water for irrigation.
SMWD charges all customers a fixed basic service rate for water, sewer and a sanitation volumetric charge. As of January 1, 2018, SMWD charges all residential accounts with a ¾ inch meter the following rates:
For additional information, view rates for residential and commercial customers.
To encourage conservation and cover the higher cost of buying water from MWD at a higher rate, a tiered rate system for actual units (ccf) used is in place for water usage. This system imposes higher rates on customers who use larger amounts of water. One unit (ccf) equals 748 gallons. The per-unit cost charge covers the water delivery cost. It also covers the cost of treating the water to ensure that it's safe to drink, as well as energy costs for pumping the water to customers.
The first step to reduce water costs is reducing water use, particularly for irrigation (which is typically 60-70% of water use). Customers can lower their bills by implementing conservation techniques and fixing any household leaks. If you suspect a leak or feel that your water bill is extremely high, request an audit. A District representative will visit your home and conduct a thorough review of your water meter, water pressure and irrigation habits. The District will then provide recommendations for conserving water and reducing your monthly bill. For more information on cost savings, learn about our Operation Conservation program, where you can find new ways to save water and money.
Customers pay a power surcharge if they live in an elevated area that requires water to be pumped to their location. The surcharge passes-through the cost the District pays for electricity to pump the water. The surcharge rate is determined by the pumping zone. There are nine pumping zones in the District that are assessed a surcharge. The current surcharge rate can range from $0.26 per ccf to $0.51 per ccf. The rate applies to domestic and non-domestic water.
The District does not have any control over the cost of water purchased from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) through SMWD's wholesale water supplier, Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC). Currently, the district includes a "wholesale pass through charge" of $0.19 per ccf of water usage which reflects the MWD cost increases for water.
The lowest price tier provides the most cost-effective water and sewer rates within SMWD. A single-family residence customer falls under this category when water usage is 0 to 6 ccf (1 ccf = 748 gallons) within one billing cycle. A multi-family residence customer (condominium or apartment) falls under this "first tier" when usage is 0 to 3 ccf within one month's usage. View SMWD's water and sewer rates.
To fund water and sanitation infrastructure for our eight improvement districts, SMWD has issued General Obligation Bonds (with the exception of Talega, which issued Community Facility District bonds to finance the infrastructure). General Obligation Bonds are paid for by the area directly benefitting from the facilities and payments (principal and interest) to the bondholders are collected through the County of Orange Treasurer-Tax Collector's office via property tax bills. SMWD develops the annual tax rates to repay the bonds based on the Treasurer-Tax Collector's assessed value of the land. Property owners may see variances in the tax rates for these Improvement Districts when assessed property values increase or decrease.
SMWD is committed to developing local, reliable drinking water supplies. The District constantly evaluates its water portfolio and potential water supply projects, including the San Juan Watershed Project which has the capacity to provide 5.6 billion gallons of local, reliable water to South Orange County residents - enough water for 50,000 families each year.
SMWD is also a leader in using recycled water for landscape irrigation and has been successful in obtaining water from additional sources in the local area to supplement supply. The District uses recycled water for irrigation of slopes, parks, golf courses, schools and medians within its service area. Water is recycled at SMWD's three treatment plants, producing over 2 billion gallons of recycled water each year for landscape irrigation to homeowner associations and other municipalities within the District. In addition, SMWD collects urban return (runoff) water from Oso Creek, Dove Creek, and Horno Creek to blend with the recycled water as an additional source for irrigation. The use of recycled water and urban return flows from the creeks offset the need to import drinking water from MWD for irrigation.
Gray water includes wastewater from showers, bathtubs, bathroom sinks, laundry tubs and washing machines, but not from toilets, kitchen sinks or dishwashers. The latter sources typically have high bacterial content, making them unsuitable for irrigation. Gray water comprises 50 - 80% of residential wastewater. California regulators have recently loosened the requirements for using gray water for certain irrigation purposes by issuing an emergency decision that allows residents to create simple water-reuse systems without a construction permit. View more information about California's new standards for gray-water systems (PDF).
The Rules and Regulations for Water, Recycled Water and Wastewater Service of the Santa Margarita Water District include the criteria by which water, recycled water and wastewater service is provided to customers in the SMWD service area. Section 6 of the Rules and Regulations deal specifically with Billing Procedures, Regulations, Rates and Charges. View SMWD's Rules and Regulations (PDF).