Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Water-Wise Caltrans: Smart Investments Slash Water Use

Drought-tolerant landscaping along I-10 in Fontana.
In response to California's drought, Caltrans has set ambitious water conservation goals: cutting water use by 50 percent — a 25 point increase over Governor Brown’s mandate. The department is well on its way to meeting that goal, consuming 61 percent less water in the first two quarters of this year than in the first two quarters of 2013. That’s a two-billion gallon savings.

We’ve come a long way in a relatively short time. In 1990, Caltrans used 13.4 billion gallons of water to irrigate 17,000 landscaped acres. In stark contrast, Caltrans last year used less than 5 billion gallons of water to irrigate almost twice as much acreage.

We’re achieving such significant savings by investing in things such as “smart” irrigation controllers, which automatically adjust watering to weather conditions and soil moisture, and in new pipelines to get non-potable water to our planting sites. Every gallon of recycled water that’s used is a gallon of drinking water saved. Our watering already consists of 17 percent non-potable water and we’re working with regional water districts to get that number much higher.

Over the years, we have invested $1.4 billion in our landscaping, and it would cost more than that to replace it all. This landscaping keeps our roadsides from eroding, protects water quality, reduces fire risk and keeps the roads free of dirt and debris. It makes sense, then, that we do what it takes to it healthy and water-wise.

Caltrans water conservation efforts extend beyond the freeways and highways to the department’s facilities. Check out the video below to see a water-saving project at Caltrans Equipment Shop 3 in Marysville.