Just like you, we’re getting excited about the San Juan Watershed Project.

That’s because the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) is set to be circulated soon. This will give residents and ratepayers the opportunity to review the potential environmental impacts and any needed mitigation. It’s also an important next step in the project’s approval process.

The project is intended to take advantage of underutilized water resources, such as excess stormwater during rainstorms, by capturing water in the San Juan and Trabuco Creeks and storing it in the underground San Juan Groundwater basin. Later, the water is pumped out of the basin, treated and included as a part of SMWD’s water supplies.

Phase 1 of the project installs rubber dams in the designated locations along the San Juan and Trabuco Creeks. The dams are inflated when water is present, slowing the flow and allowing the San Juan Groundwater Basin to absorb the water. The absorption process also provides natural water treatment and filtration, although water pumped from the basin undergoes additional chemical treatment before being introduced into our water supply. During heavy rains, the rubber dams are deflated, preventing flooding in adjacent communities. Phase 1 is expected to cost around $21 million to complete.

Once the DEIR is available to the public, the SMWD Board of Directors will hold a public hearing to receive public input on the project and the document. The DEIR is expected to be available for public review for 60 days after publication.

If approved, Phase 1 of the project could begin construction in 2018, benefiting our customers starting in 2019.

A number of agencies are partnering to make this project a reality, including Santa Margarita Water District and the South Coast Water District. It is expected that the County of Orange, several south OC cities, Caltrans, OCTA, the US Dept. of Interior and the California Dept. of Water Resources may also play important roles.

To get more information, go to www.sanjuanwatershed.com, or follow Santa Margarita Water District on Facebook and Twitter. You can also sign up for updates on the project at http://sanjuanwatershed.com/connect/.