By WIll Reisman, @WillReisman

The forest fires raging throughout California are tragically highlighting the devastating effects of the state’s ongoing four-year drought.

It’s clear that water conservation has never been more important, and the San Mateo County Transit District—which manages Caltrain and SamTrans—is trying to do its own small part to contribute to California’s sustainability efforts.

Over June and July of this year, SamTrans achieved a dramatic 57 percent reduction in water usage when compared to that same time period in 2013. Overall, the bus agency saved more than 1 million gallons of water as a result of recent conservation efforts, which included cutting back on exterior bus wash schedules, installing high-efficiency faucet aerators at administrative offices, and reducing landscape irrigation at operating bases and park-and-ride facilities.

At SamTrans’ Central Headquarters in San Carlos and at its operating bases, signs will soon be posted in restrooms, kitchens, and showers that share conservation tips—more tools that could potentially lead to a further reduction in water usage.

Caltrain is also making strides to become more sustainable. The rail agency is using water-wise landscaping techniques on its property, including covering plant beds with mulch to reduce evaporation and using “smart” irrigation controllers that adjust watering schedules based on local temperature and rainfall. There are also signs being posted on Caltrain facilities reminding employees about helpful conservation tips.

While it’s sadly no consolation to the families who have lost their homes in this month’s forest fires, the state’s residents have done an admirable job meeting the goals of water reduction set forth by Governor Jerry Brown. Water usage was down 31 percent in July compared to 2013 levels, exceeding the 25 percent level set by state leaders. Through its ongoing efforts, the San Mateo County Transit District hopes to see those numbers improve even more in the future.

To find out more about the Transit District’s sustainability efforts, visit here.

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