The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has launched a massive effort to conserve water in response the declaration of a drought state of emergency by Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr.

The state is experiencing historic conditions, with 2014 projected to become the driest year on record. Dry conditions and lack of precipitation have already dipped the state’s water supplies to alarming levels and put at risk drinking water supplies in many California communities.

On Jan. 17, Gov. Brown declared a state of emergency, saying “I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible.”

The Governor’s proclamation also directed state agencies to immediately implement water use reduction plans for all state facilities to reduce water usage by at least 20 percent. These plans, which are part of the massive “Save our H20” statewide conservation campaign, will include immediate water conservation actions.

As one of the largest state agencies in California, the department is also a large consumer of water, relying on its water supplies for drinking water, processing waste, preparing meals, janitorial cleaning and laundry.

“Previous water conservation measures and the reduced inmate population have helped the department meet its earlier conservation goals but more is urgently needed as we get through this crisis. My hope is that the reductions we establish in the coming weeks and months will help build upon a platform of sustained water conservation,” said CDCR Secretary Jeff Beard.

CDCR has also been active in water conservation measures over the years, achieving sharp reductions through earlier efforts. However, with the severity of this drought, water supplies are going to be increasingly strained as the year proceeds and several prisons which rely on on-site water wells are already seeing sharp reductions in available supply.

In January 2014, CDCR distributed to all of its field locations a Mandatory Water Conservation Management Memo and a Water Management and Conservation Best Management Practices Check List for use by the field when developing water conservation measures.

The department has also developed a Drought Response Action Plan to implement immediate conservation measures and address long-term, sustainable water supply solutions. Among other things, the plan calls for:

• Reducing total water usage by 20 percent and developing and tracking consumption data,

• Placing a moratorium on new, non-essential landscaping projects,

• Reviewing all water-use devices, (i.e. irrigation sprinklers, plumbing fixtures) to identify higher-efficiency alternatives,

• Enlisting active participation from facility staff and occupants in reporting leaks and other water usage issues,

• Posting signage and distributing other education materials to promote water conservation in restrooms, break areas and other institutional areas utilized by building occupants,

• Soliciting and adhering to local water district’s ordinances and conservation protocols whenever applicable and discussion of contingency plans.