The East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition has scheduled three meetings to update its members and local growers about proposed regulations covering groundwater and nitrates that are expected to be adopted in October.
The Regional Water Board staff will be attending each meeting to describe how the new requirements will be rolled out to members, in particular a farm evaluation plan and budget for crops. Growers who are not coalition members are also invited to attend the meetings.
The ESJWQC has been working with the Water Board for at least six months on the draft Waste Discharge Requirements proposed by the state agency for the northern San Joaquin Valley region.
"The new groundwater program affects each region in the Central Valley. The new regulations that will be in effect in October is going to require farmers to report the amount of fertilizers they use. This will determine the amount of nitrate in ground water," said Executive Director of ESJWQC Parry Klassen.
In the past, there have never been regulatory requirements on irrigated agriculture to protect groundwater from fertilizers, which are the primary source of nitrate in the valley. Nitrate levels have increased dramatically in drinking water supplies over the last few decades.
The Final Annual Nitrogen Budget Worksheet will require a summary of nitrogen consumption ratios by crops or other equivalent reporting units. The ratio is an estimate of anticipated crop consumption in comparison to total applied nitrogen through sources including fertilizers, manures, composts, nitrates in irrigation supply water and other sources.
With the addition of groundwater to the existing surface water program, the Water Board now considers any irrigated crop in the Central Valley to have potential to discharge nitrogen fertilizer into groundwater aquifiers, hence all growers need coverage for those discharges either through a coalition or individual permit with the Water Board.
"This new program is going to impact all farming operations in the Central Valley," said Wayne Zipser, director of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau and an ESJWQC board vice chairman. "Nitrates in groundwater are in part being attributed to farming practices and we are determined to show the public and Regional Water Board that we are protective of groundwater resources. Our job as a coalition is to develop a workable program to provide information to support that claim and do it in the most effective way possible."
Attendees are being asked to reserve a seat at the meetings. The meeting locations and times are:
June 21: 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Madera County Farm Bureau, 1102 Pine St., Madera, CA
June 26: 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Merced Co. Farm Bureau, 646 South Highway 59, Merced, CA
June 28: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Stanislaus County Ag Center, 3800 Cornucopia Way, Modesto, CA