Cellphone Video Captures Sprinklers Watering Freeway Hillsides In The Rain

UPDATE AS OF May 11, 2015: An earlier version of this article described the sprinklers as being on the property of the California Department of Transportation. Officials later clarified the sprinklers are on property belonging to NBC/Universal. » READ MORE

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Cellphone video taken Friday captured images of sprinklers going full blast along a freeway while a light rain fell and after a night of showers.

The watering of hillsides along the 101 Freeway and Barham Boulevard in Universal City comes at a time when Californians have been deluged with pleas to save water during the historic drought. It also comes at a time when freeway message boards warn motorists of the drought, stating “Severe Drought. Limit Outdoor Watering.”

“There are a number of reasons why we have to water our vegetation in Los Angeles, a lot of places where the vegetation actually provides erosion control,” Patrick Chandler, a spokesperson of Caltrans, told KCAL9’s Dave Bryan. “We have to have erosion control there for the vegetation to hold them in place.”

In an email dated May 11, Chandler told CBS2/KCAL9 that he was unable to view the video footage prior to his interview with Bryan and that the fence line seen in the video is the end of Caltrans property.

“The slope actually belongs to Universal,” Chandler said.

As Bryan reports, the question then becomes whether Caltrans has the technology to turn off sprinklers right away if heavy rain is falling.

The answer appears to be, in some cases, maybe not.

That’s because, so far, the more sophisticated smart sprinkler technology, which automatically shuts down when it rains, is only in limited use along Southland thoroughfares.

A video posted to YouTube promotes a home-smart sprinkler system for its conservation of water and flexibility in rainy weather shutting down rather than overwatering when it’s not necessary. This saves in some cases up to 50 percent of water use.

Chandler says Caltrans has installed a smart sprinkler system along at least one Southland freeway and has plans for more.

Recently, the California Transportation Commission approved an emergency expenditure of $28 million to install the new smart sprinkler systems across the state.

As Bryan reports, getting the job done, though, will neither be quick nor cheap.

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