California Department of Transportation

Caltrans Water Conservation

Water Conservation

The Department of Transportation is committed to being a good steward of California’s limited water resources. The Department actively manages, promotes and implements water conservation practices within the highway transportation system and associated facilities. Cost effective and appropriate water conservation strategies are employed in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of transportation facilities including, to the maximum extent practicable, the use of recycled water and state-of-the-art irrigation practices for highway landscaping.

Click the photos below for articles and further information on how Caltrans is conserving water during the drought.

We Are Here


caltrans Drought Action Plan


Click here for a summary of the latest actions taken by Caltrans to address the drought.

Local Water Agency Drought Status Map

Local water agencies across California are beginning to take action in the face of record-dry conditions in early 2014. Many water suppliers are calling on customers to step up conservation efforts, while some already have implemented mandatory restrictions on water use. Here is a snapshot of how local water agencies and communities are responding. Click on a location for details. (To add or change information on the map, email

Drought status data provided by Association of California Water Agencies
Updated 7/9/2014
  Mandatory Restrictions
  Voluntary Measures
  Agricultural Reductions
  Other actions
  Drought Emergency / Water Shortage Declared

Governor's Office Documents

01-17-2014 Governor Brown Declares Drought State of Emergency
01-17-2013 Governor Brown's Executive Order B-21-13
05-03-2012 Governor Brown's Executive Order B-18-12

caltrans Memos, Bulletins, and Guidance

2015-05-20 Caltrans Director - Memo on Caltrans Continuing Drought Effort
2014-06-26 Chief Engineer - Highway Construction Projects - Water Conservation Memorandum
2014-05-30 Division of Construction - Highway Construction Projects - Water Conservation Guidance
2014-05-30 Dust Palliative Design Guidance
2014-05-30 Estimated Water Usage for Water Availability Request Excel Spreadsheet
2014-03-11 Evaluation of "Essential" Planting Work for Water Conservation
2014-03-04 Division of Construction CPD 14-1 Water Conservation
2014- 02-07 Caltrans Drought Workshop Action Items
2014-02-06 Division of Maintenance - Water Conservation and Drought
2014-02-06 Caltrans Director - Memo on Water Conservation
2014-01-01 Water Storage Status Sheet
2013-10-23 Landscape Architecture Program - Stormwater Management Plan Implementation and Model Water Efficiency Landscape Ordinance (MWELO) Compliance
2013-09-11 Division of Maintenance - Water Conservation Actions to Comply With Executive Order B-18-12
2010-08-19 Landscape Architecture Program - Water Conservation Memo
This memo provides an update on California water conditions, compliance with water rationing procedures, and clarification on the state's Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance. This document will help you understand and contribute to the Department's commitment to efficiently managing water use within the roadside.
2008-07-18 Landscape Architecture Program - Memo on Water Conservation
1993-09-01 Deputy Directive 13 - Water Conservation

Caltrans Manuals

Caltrans Project Development Procedures Manual Chapter 29 - See Landscape Architecture
Section 2 - Highway Planting Ready to List Certification - Water Use for Planting and Irrigation

Highway Design Manual - See Topic 902.3 Planting Guidelines, and Topic 902.4 Irrigation Guidelines

Other Resources

The Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance

The link below lists all of the State's water agencies.

Click Links for More Information
Native Grass Sod Caltrans Native Grass Sod Research

Native grass was found to provide the following benefits:
  • Low water requirements once established.
  • Immediate soil cover, providing immediate control of surface erosion.
  • Immediate minimum 55% reduction in site sediment loss.
  • Greatly reduced competition from invasive weed species.
  • Low maintenance costs due to a reduction in weed emergence and survival.

Caltrans "transPLANT" Plant Selection Tool

TransPLANT is an advisory aid to Caltrans Landscape Architects as they select grasses, forbes and other plants for erosion control, revegetation, biofiltration, and other planting work.

Use of transPLANT is intended to supplement, not replace, knowledge of local areas held by District personnel. A visit to the project site is still recommended before the final selection of plant materials is made.

Native Plant Database

Caltrans Native Grass Selection Tool

Prepared by University of California Davis, this tool provides a method to select the most appropriate native grass species based upon criteria such as county, rainfall, elevation, and plant community.

I5 SR54 Project

Highway Artscape: The Interstate 5 / SR-54 Project

From - Landscape magazine.
Caltrans District Landscape Architect - Tom Ham
Project Designer - Catalina Flores

How Caltrans designs affordable, attractive, context-sensitive roadsides with low water usage and low maintenance requirements.

Updated 08-08-2014