Pipeline will let Caltrans irrigate roadside plants with recycled water

In an effort to reduce water use during the ongoing drought, Caltrans is installing a pipeline in San Luis Obispo County to provide recycled water for landscape irrigation.

The work is taking place along a four-mile stretch of Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo from Los Osos Valley Road to Monterey Street, Caltrans spokesman Jim Shivers said.

The $2.5 million project is expected to be complete by October. The contractor is Nipomo-based Rockwood General Contractors.

Water for irrigation will come from the San Luis Obispo wastewater treatment plant.

Bathroom facilities at a dozen Caltrans maintenance yards along the Central Coast are being upgraded to low-flow fixtures, according to a news release.

In addition, Caltrans plans to install more than 30 “smart irrigation” controllers at various locations along Highway 1 and Highway 101 from Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara counties. The devices can reduce water use by as much as 60 percent, according to the news release.

The controllers monitor plant health and apply water only when absolutely necessary, and turn off when it rains or when it is forecast to rain.

Caltrans owns and manages more than 30,000 acres of irrigated landscape statewide.

About 75 percent of the water Caltrans uses goes to irrigating highway plants, which help reduce erosion and graffiti and absorb pollutants in the air, agency officials said.

The agency has developed a plan to reduce excessive water use along state highways.

For more information, go to http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LandArch/water_conservation/index.htm.