By Collin Breaux | Email: cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com | Twitter: @collin_breaux

Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) President Betty Olson welcomed people to the official grand opening of the Trampas Canyon Dam and Reservoir on Friday, Oct. 9.

SMWD held a virtual ceremony celebrating the dam, which has been constructed in South Orange County and will store recycled water. The Trampas Canyon Dam and Reservoir is on land acquired from Rancho Mission Viejo, south of Ortega Highway.

Trampas Reservoir
The Santa Margarita Water District gave a tour of the Trampas Canyon Water Reservoir and Dam on Saturday, Nov. 16. Photo: Collin Breaux

“Two and a half years ago when we broke ground on this facility, we knew we were making an investment in water reliability for the future of South Orange County,” Olson said. “As a board, we accepted the challenge of our time to ensure our water supplies are resilient and guarantee we are excellent stewards of our imported water supply.”

The reservoir will allow SMWD to maximize recycled water use and brings them closer to their goal of zero discharges into the ocean, Olson said. The project has been under construction this year and was reportedly not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Construction crews worked on the dam throughout 2020. Photo: Collin Breaux

Water will be saved during the winter months for use during the summer, when “the demand for recycled water is at its highest,” Olson said.

The video dedication covered the history of the reservoir site, which was previously used for sand mining and is said to be the largest recycled water reservoir “of its type” in Southern California. It can hold 1.6 billion gallons of recycled water and spans more than 3,000 feet in length, the video said.

SMWD General Manager Daniel Ferons said they support the state’s goals of water sustainability and thanked SMWD staff and the Board of Directors.

“Today, we’re at the precipice of filling a reservoir that will supply irrigation, groundwater recharge and locally sourced drinking water to meet the current and future needs of the community,” Ferons said.

The reservoir will serve San Juan Capistrano and be interconnected with San Clemente, in addition to providing irrigation for SMWD. The San Juan Capistrano City Council approved a water and utility annexation agreement with SMWD in January, meaning those systems will be transferred to SMWD. The annexation agreement still needs to be approved by the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) and could become official this fall or winter.

A spillway is one of the features at the new recycled water reservoir. Photo: Collin Breaux

Ferons also thanked Rancho Mission Viejo Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Tony Moiso for his support of the project. Moiso said it was an honor to be at the dedication, and Rancho Mission Viejo has looked to SMWD to solve water challenges.

“This accomplishment is huge,” Moiso said. “It was a dream. What we celebrated today is truly a tribute to the courage of the leadership of the district, the courage to put it down as a goal that we’re actually going to do this.”

Further opportunities and continued partnership will benefit Rancho Mission Viejo and SMWD residents, and The Ranch is committed to working “in the decades ahead” to accomplish more of SMWD’s dreams, Moiso said.

State Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) presented a certificate commemorating the occasion. Orange County Fifth District Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said the reservoir is a milestone for SMWD’s commitment to developing a reliable water supply.

“I have long been an avid supporter of the district’s efforts to recycle and reuse wastewater,” Bartlett said. “This project is so important to the Fifth District, because unlike other parts of the county, we still import approximately 90% of our water supply. Having the ability to capture and store water means we are one step closer to being self-sufficient and meeting our long-term water needs.”

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