San Juan Capistrano

SJC Pipeline to Supply Water to Sendero

By Kim Lefner

A proposed agreement with the Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) to use our pipeline to supply water to the Ranch’s new “Sendero” residential development, and to purchase recycled water from the SMWD is surprising in its lack of clarity about several important issues. The water service to Sendero will be for an estimated period of four years while the SMWD builds reservoirs to service the new development.

According to minutes of the September 25 meeting (see Minutes under "Community Links" in the column to the right), the SMWD Board of Directors unanimously approved the agreement to supply water to Sendero via City of San Juan Capistrano water line “SC-4” that runs adjacent to the Sendero development. The pipeline cost our City approximately $6.9 million to construct. According to the SMWD, of the 4.91cfs of water allocated to San Juan through our pipeline, an estimated 41% will be supplied to Sendero. We do not yet know how much of this capacity is being used to service SJC water needs especially the high altitude uses. Do we have enough excess capacity to meet our needs with 59% of what we are now getting?

This revelation also raises the following questions:

- What is the capacity of SC-4 (our water line) and how much of the SC-4 pipeline's capacity will be used to service Sendero (regardless of which agency supplies the water)?

- Since we are still paying off the cost to construct the $6.9 million SC-4 pipeline, will Sendero reimburse us for our capital costs; wear and tear, etc during the estimated four years of use?

- Is Sendero guaranteed a certain amount of water? If so, how much?

- Does water provided to Sendero through our pipeline impact our allocation from MWDOC? If so, how much?

- SMWD and San Juan reports and agreements indicate that one of the reasons San Juan constructed the pipeline was to insure a water supply from the SMWD in the event of an emergency. If true, does the water being provided to Sendero impact our water flow in the event of an emergency? Will we have the maximum output of water?

- Did the approval of the Sendero development (“Planning Area 1”) depend on water allocation from MWD that was previously allocated to SJC?

- How will San Juan residents be assured that the water flow will be closely monitored?

Perhaps even more troubling in the report is the City’s plan to purchase recycled water from the SMWD, given the court ruling that prohibits the City from charging customers for recycled water they are not receiving.

“Who will pay for the recycled water that San Juan plans to purchase from the SMWD?” asked Councilman Derek Reeve. “The City is prohibited by the court from billing residential customers for recycled water since it is unavailable to them, and recycled water is expensive due to the infrastructure needed to supply it. We still have millions in unpaid debt for the recycled water infrastructure we built here in San Juan. So, where is the money coming from for this new expense?” asked Reeve.

Capistrano Taxpayers Association (CTA) Board member John Perry also questioned the proposed agreement, especially given the outcome of the lawsuit the CTA filed – and won - against the City of SJC for illegally billing water users through higher “tiered” water rates and for recycled water residents are not receiving.

“Why is the city moving forward with a recycled water scheme with the SMWD when the court ruled they cannot charge residents for it? If the City loses their appeal of the water rate lawsuit and must refund overcharges to residents, how will they pay for both that and this newest scheme to install recycled water infrastructure through the SMWD?”

While much is still unknown about this “agreement”, one thing is clear; these questions should be answered before San Juan agrees to allow use of our pipeline to provide water to Sendero and to install very expensive infrastructure to carry recycled water from the SMWD.

San Juan City spokeswoman Cathy Salcedo was quoted in an Orange County Register article (September 25) as stating that San Juan Capistrano plans to address the SMWD agreement issue at a Utilities Commission meeting in November, and at a December 2013 council meeting. The CCS will update you…stay tuned.

Questions? Comments? The CCS wants to hear from you! Contact us at:


Anonymous said...

When we are being charged so much for our water, why should we be helping other communities when we cannot afford the water in our community.

Anonymous said...

I just want to make sure I'm clear...we PAID to install a trunk line to another community? And now that community wants to use that line for a yet-to-be-defined period of time? And the quantity they want is approaching a 50/50 basis for what our city's use or need?

Unless we're charging a premium (to help our HUGE dept in utilities), or get some major concession down the road (i.e. twice the water back at a date to be determined), AND the right suspend shipping should our needs exceed total capacity...why would we do it?

Editorial Board said...

Anonymous -

With regard to SJC paying to install a "trunk line" (as you call it) to another community; the stated purpose for building a pipeline from the SMWD to SJC was to provide water to SJC in the event of emergency. The water line currently provides water to SJC neighborhoods in higher elevations as well, so it does serve SJC.

Our understanding is that the pipeline just so happens to run adjacent to the Ranch's new Sendero development, which makes it convenient to use our pipeline to deliver water to them.

Whether the installation of the pipeline adjacent to the Ranch's development was by design is as yet unknown.

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