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Caltrans to Reduce Water Usage With Irrigation System Upgrades

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Caltrans is getting started on their irrigation systems in hopes of reducing their water usage during the drought.

Caltrans District 5 is installing a more water-efficient irrigation system in certain areas in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.

"What we plan to do with this project is install electrical systems, irrigation units, sprinkler systems that reduce water in landscaped areas by up to 50 percent," said Jim Shiver, spokesperson for Caltrans.

Governor Jerry Brown called for a 20 percent reduction in water usage during his drought declaration months ago, but Caltrans is taking that a step further by reducing their usage by 50 percent.

In recent years, Caltrans has been consciously reducing their consumption. In 2013, District 5 used about 4-million gallons of water in the San Luis Obispo area. That's almost 2.5 million gallons less than the total in 2010.

District 5 has over 1,000 miles of highway, most of it with some sort of vegetation either in the center median or on the shoulders.

"Typically any sprinklers that you see or landscaped areas in the center median or beyond the shoulder of the highway,  those are within the state right-of-way and those are the areas we are responsible for," said Shivers.

According to Caltrans, most of these plants are irrigated with potable water, but it uses reclaimed water as much as it can.

Most of the work is being done off highway 101 near San Luis Obispo, and highways 46 and 135. Some of the work will cause various freeway ramps to be closed periodically. Caltrans expects the project to be finished by this October.

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