California Department of Transportation

Water Conservation

Native Landscape Restoration Lake Tahoe California Drought To;erant Landscape
Native Plant Community Installation
Lake Tahoe, California
Drought Tolerant Landscape
Interstate Route 80
Davis, California

The Department of Transportation is 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 technology for highway landscaping.

Water Conservation Techniques

  • Select plant material appropriate to the local rainfall, soils, and exposure. Native plants shall be used to the maximum extent feasible.
  • When specifying containerized plant material and for project sites with compacted soils (if not already rootable), fracture or rip the soils to a 3' depth and incorporate a minimum of 1" of compost into the top 12 inches of soil.
  • Apply 2" - 3" of wood chip or bark mulch in a 2' to 3' diameter around the plant to conserve soil moisture and control weeds.
  • Use recycled water or non potable whenever available, consistent with quality and health standards, and within justifiable costs.
  • Whenever possible, utilize "smart" irrigation controllers to minimize the amount of supplemental water required.

Governor's Office Documents

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

caltrans Memos, Bulletins, and Guidance

03/11/2014 Caltrans Evaluation of Current Planting Work Memo
03/04/2014 Caltrans Division of Construction CPD14-1 Water Conservation
02-06-2014 Caltrans Water Conservation Memo
02-06-2014 Caltrans Division of Maintenance Water Conservation Memo and Drought Action Plan
02-07-2014 Caltrans Drought Workshop Action Items
01-2014 Water Storage Status Sheet
08-23-2010 Water Conservation Memorandum 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.
03-04-2010 Caltrans Project Development Procedures Manual Chapter 29 - See Landscape Architecture
Section 2 - Highway Planting Ready to List Certification - Water Use for Planting and Irrigation
07-18-2008 Caltrans Headquarters Memo to District Offices
01-09-2006 Highway Design Manual - See Topic 902.3 Planting Guidelines, and Topic 902.4 Irrigation Guidelines
09-01-1993 Water Conservation Deputy Directive (DD-13)
07-1998 Assessment of Remote Irrigation Control Systems

Other Resources

The Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance

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


Native Grass Sod Webinar Video

Native Grass Sod Webinar


Water Conservation LINKS

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.