Santa Margarita Water District

The dedication of Santa Margarita Water District’s Trampas Canyon Dam and Reservoir on Friday, October 9, 2020 marked an important step in securing water supply resiliency for the south Orange County community. Local elected, regional, and state officials as well as community leaders joined the District Board of Directors and staff to commemorate the completion of this latest (and area’s largest) infrastructure project.

Currently, the reservoir is empty making it a stunning location for the dedication ceremony; over 7.7 million square feet of area, leaving to the imagination how it will look when filled. Under normal circumstances the milestone would have been marked with a large, in-person gathering, but because of current COVID-19 pandemic protection protocols, the District instead hosted 40 socially distanced guests on-site and over 300 in virtual attendance.

“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,” said SMWD Board President Betty Olson. “Trampas Reservoir allows the district to maximize recycled water use and brings us closer to our goal of no discharge to the ocean.”

Speakers at the intimate ceremony reflected on the early stages of the project. Many in attendance and online had played important roles in the project’s earliest days and were gratified to see how far it had come. The District estimates that the reservoir could be filled to its 1.6 billion gallon capacity by October 2021.

“In my mind’s eye, it is not an empty reservoir. Sure, it lacks water right now, but it is full of both contributions and opportunities,” said SMWD General Manager Dan Ferons. He acknowledged the role of the District Board of Directors in challenging staff to “dream big” and take a leadership role in developing cost-effective, long-term projects to reduce the District’s reliance on imported water.

“Today we are on 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. “We’re replacing those dreams and that vision with water for the future.”

After speaking, Ferons presented Rancho Mission Viejo Chairman Tony Moiso, a key player in the project, with an original acrylic rendering of the reservoir filled with water painted by Ferons. The vision of the full reservoir was a gift for Moiso, one that said: this would not have been possible without you. Other attendees also received a signed and numbered print of the painting as thanks for their integral role.

“This accomplishment is huge,” said Moiso. “The word dream was used — it was a dream, and what we are celebrating today is truly a tribute to the courage of the leadership of the District.”

Other notable speakers provided remarks commending the project and the partnerships that made it possible. Joining Mr. Moiso were Joaquin Esquivel, chairman of the California State Water Resources Control Board; Henry Abarbanel, president of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board; State Senator Pat Bates, representing Orange County’s 36th California Senate District, Orange County Supervisor Lisa A. Bartlett; and State Senator Robert Hertzberg, representing California’s 16th Senate District.

The gathering, both on-site and virtual celebrated the tireless efforts and contributions that SMWD and its partners have made in strategic planning, engineering, and innovation in recycled resources. The event marked an extraordinary achievement that moves the District one giant step closer to local sustainability and resiliency.