California drought: Highway signs urge water conservation

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California is taking to the highways to spread the word about water conservation after months of drought.

This week the California Department of Transportation launched an education campaign with 700 electronic highway boards displaying the message: "Serious Drought. Help Save Water."

Caltrans hopes the campaign will raise drought awareness among California's 24 million drivers.

The signs will be activated when there are no critical emergency or traffic safety messages or Amber Alerts.

California recorded its driest year on record in 2013 and the first substantial storm of this winter arrived only last weekend.

Last month Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages.

Caltrans noted that it will also be making reductions in its irrigation activities. In a statement Tuesday, Caltrans said it would take the following actions, effective this month:

  • Cut statewide irrigation activities by at least 50 percent.
  • Delay all new landscaping projects in severely impacted areas until the next rainy season to preserve the water supply. Postpone all non-essential highway planting.
  • Cease watering in areas of the state suffering from the most severe drought impacts.
  • Expand its use of smart irrigation technologies, which turn off automatically when it rains. Such systems can reduce water usage by as much as 50-60 percent.
  • Use recycled water for irrigation and other activities whenever possible
  • Forgo washing vehicles except when necessary for safety.

With contributions from KPCC staff

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