LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Hundreds of electronic highway signs were being activated Tuesday to urge drivers in Southern California and statewide to conserve water.

KNX 1070’s Jan Stevens reports Caltrans officials will keep the message short and to the point: “SERIOUS DROUGHT. HELP SAVE WATER.”

An estimated 700 signs lining the state’s highways will be used in the public education campaign, which is part of Caltrans’ response to a severe drought that has gripped much of California following a declaration from Governor Jerry Brown on Jan. 17.

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

With California facing water shortfalls in the driest year in recorded state history, Caltrans spokesperson Tamie McGowen said the agency – which is responsible for 30,000 acres of irrigated landscaping – is reducing its irrigation activities by as much as 50 percent.

“We are stopping irrigation in all severe water shortage areas, all non-essential planting work is being postponed, and we are expanding use of ‘smart’ irrigation, which allows the sprinkler system to see what the weather is like before it goes off,” McGowen said.

In response to drought conditions, Brown has also called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 20 percent as part of the Save Our Water campaign.

In a related move, the Metropolitan Water District board officially declared a water supply alert Tuesday and agreed to increase its conservation and outreach budget from $20 million to $40 million.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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