Fiscal Impacts to SAMLARC: Santa Margarita Water District Rates

As part of SAMLARC’s commitment to maintaining a safe and attractive community, SAMLARC budgets water usage for its both landscaping and amenities. Each year’s budget is projected using historical data and anticipated impacts wherever possible to ensure that irrigation and domestic water is available year-round. SAMLARC is dependent on the services of Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) to provide water for the property and works closely with SMWD to identify opportunities for cost savings and potential fiscal impacts.

SMWD is the second largest water retail agency in Orange County, serving approximately 165,000 residents. SMWD faces unique challenges in providing water to its constituents – in particular the lack of a local water supply. Unlike north and central Orange County, south Orange County does not have access to local underground water. SMWD must therefore purchase and import water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. SMWD is in the process of developing sources of local water, such as the Trampas Canyon Reservoir Project, that will reduce dependence on imported water. SMWD is also financing its $90 million, 5-Year Capital improvement Plan to maintain, repair, and replace the District’s infrastructure; ensuring that services can be provided efficiently and consistently. Furthermore, inflation and increased energy costs have impacted SMWD’s operating budget. In consideration of all of these factors, SMWD has proposed a rate increase for implementation in 2020 which will substantially impact SAMLARC’s water usage budget.

SAMLARC endeavors to use its water wisely and accurately project the next year’s usage. The 2020 usage projections were developed based on the 2018 usage pattern, as 2017 was considered a drought year and 2019 experienced extensive rainfall. SMWD’s Board of Directors will formally consider the proposed rate increase in late 2019. Based on projected water usage figures and SMWD’s increased rates, SAMLARC’s water costs are projected to increase by $656,342 in 2020. Currently, there is no recycled water in SAMLARC, so SAMLARC is forced to use potable water which is more expensive and may not be sustainable with the next drought. The SAMLARC Board of Directors and management team will continue to work with SMWD in exploring potential recycled water initiatives and associated grants and programs to assist in offsetting costs in the coming years.