More Than Scenic

Miramar Reservoir, known as Miramar Lake to locals, is a popular spot for running, bicycling, and fishing for the Scripps Miramar Ranch community. The reservoir, however, serves a greater purpose for the entirety of San Diego County. We talk with Director of Public Utilities Department Vic Bianes to learn more about the reservoir’s functions, history, and amenities.


Q&A with Director of Public Utilities Department Vic Bianes

What is the history behind Miramar Reservoir? When was it first built and what was its purpose?
Miramar Reservoir is owned and operated by the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department as part of the City’s municipal drinking water system.

Miramar Reservoir is located in what was once a small, naturally dry canyon. The reservoir is formed by an earth-fill dam in the canyon. The dam was completed in 1960 by the City’s Water Department, now Public Utilities Department. Since its creation, the reservoir has impounded only imported water from the Colorado River and Northern California conveyed to the reservoir in aqueducts operated by the San Diego County Water Authority. Essentially no runoff from the surrounding local watershed flows into the reservoir.

The purpose of Miramar Reservoir is to provide a backup supply of water for the adjacent Miramar Water Treatment Plant should water not be available from the imported aqueduct. The reservoir also serves to regulate or “balance” flows from the aqueduct to the treatment plant.


Director | At-A-Glance

Name: Vic Bianes
Profession: Director, Public Utilities Department
Favorite Spot in Scripps Ranch: Miramar Reservoir

What is the reservoir’s mission?
Miramar Reservoir is a key feature of the City of San Diego’s public water system, which is operated by the Public Utilities Department. The mission of the Public Utilities Department is to provide reliable water utility services that protect the health of our communities and the environment.

Tell us more about the grounds and property. How large is the reservoir?
At the normal operating level, the surface area of the reservoir is 183 acres, and it holds 5,500 acre feet (or 1.8 billion gallons) of water. The maximum depth is 115 feet.


Miramar Reservoir is very popular for bicycling, jogging, walking, rollerblading, and picnicking. A paved service road encircles the reservoir and runs 4.92 miles. Vehicular traffic is permitted on this road seven days a week during normal operating days and hours.

There are 18 barbecues and 48 picnic tables located around the lake. Patrons can bring their own gas barbecues for use in designated areas only. No ground fires or glass containers are allowed. Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times and at least 50 feet away from the water. Dogs are not allowed on any boats. Overnight camping is not allowed at Miramar Reservoir.

There is a concession at Miramar Reservoir that sells snacks, drinks, fishing tackle, and bait. Boat rentals are also available on a first-come basis only, no reservations.

Fisherpersons must purchase a daily fishing permit, as well as possess a valid California fishing license. The reservoir has Florida-strain large-mouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, and sunfish. Minimum size limit for bass is 12 inches. Fish limits are five bass, five catfish, and 25 bluegill or sunfish in aggregate, with no limit of other species.


Can you talk about the Miramar Water Treatment Plant? What is its purpose?
The Miramar Water Treatment Plant, which is immediately adjacent to the reservoir, was constructed at about the same time as the dam and reservoir. It began operation in 1962. The plant provides drinking water to about 550,000 customers in the northern section of the City of San Diego, as well as to residents in the City of Del Mar.

The plant’s capacity is 144 million gallons of treated drinking water per day. The City recently completed a 14-year multi-phase expansion and upgrade project to ensure future customer demands and more stringent drinking water standards and regulations are met. Since 2012, the Miramar Water Treatment Plant has participated in the American Water Works Association’s Partnership for Safe Water Program, which involved an extensive self-assessment and optimization program and report. Based on the plant’s staff’s efforts and documented reporting, the plant was awarded the Partnership’s Director’s Award in November 2012. In continuing its efforts to achieve a more fully optimized system, the Miramar Water Treatment Plant was subsequently awarded the Partnership’s President’s Award in June 2013. Currently, there are only five other treatment plants in the United States that have achieved this prestigious award.


Miramar Reservoir | At-A-Glance

Name: Miramar Reservoir
Owner: City of San Diego, Public Utilities Department
Address: 10710 Scripps Lake Dr., San Diego, CA 92131
Phone: 619-668-2050
Description: Miramar Reservoir is a reservoir located in the Scripps Miramar Ranch community and is owned, operated, and maintained by the City of San Diego.


What is your role with the reservoir? What are some of your duties or responsibilities?
As department director, my role is to lead the City of San Diego’s Public Utilities Department in providing high-quality water, wastewater, recycled water, and in the case of our reservoirs, recreational services for our customers. The City has an experienced professional team of reservoir keepers, rangers, and recreational staff to maintain the reservoirs, provide safety for our patrons, and oversee all recreational activities at all nine of the City’s reservoirs. It is incredibly rewarding to lead this team of devoted professionals who are dedicated to providing high-quality water, wastewater, and recreational services for all San Diegans.

The value of our reservoirs cannot be overstated. We work continuously to ensure the highest of water quality in our reservoirs in order to provide a safe and reliable water supply for our customers. We also have the added benefit of creating public recreation opportunities for all to enjoy.


How is the reservoir maintained and funded?
All of the water system infrastructure at Miramar, including the dam, the outlet and inlet works, the reservoir basin, the unoccupied land around the reservoir, and the water itself, are maintained by the City’s water system using water ratepayer funds.

Recreation facilities and programs, on the other hand, are funded by general tax money from residents of the City of San Diego, or by on-site user fees. This includes the public parking areas, picnic grounds, comfort station, boats, and fishing docks. No water ratepayer money is used to support the recreation program.


How many staff members work on the property? Can you tell us more about their roles?
We currently have four reservoir staff assigned to Miramar Reservoir. Reservoir staff patrols and safeguards the dam and reservoir property for the protection of dam safety and the public water supply, and carries out dam and reservoir maintenance and repairs.

Staff also provides assistance to the recreating public, enforces reservoir rules and regulations, and responds to incidents at the reservoir involving the public.

Does the reservoir offer any opportunities for school/group field trips or other large events?
Yes, event organizers must complete a ground use application. If you would like to hold an event at Miramar Reservoir please contact our office at 619-668-2050 for additional information.


Does the reservoir need volunteers? How should those interested in volunteering get involved?
Yes, the Reservoir Recreation Program is always looking for volunteers to assist with the program. Volunteers can view opportunities at:

Can you tell us about any upcoming events? Where can readers find out more?
Yes, readers can find out about upcoming events by checking out our website at For additional information, please contact The City of San Diego Reservoirs and Recreation Program office at 619-668-2050 or reach us via email at