California Watershed Order Revised

Len WilcoxCalifornia Corner

watershed

Citrus irrigation at the Lindcove Research and Extension Center in Exeter, California.

The California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) recently adopted significant revisions to the Eastern San Joaquin River Watershed Agricultural Order. The order will impact all irrigated regulatory programs statewide, including those that do not currently operate with a coalition system as in the Central Valley.

Two years ago, the SWRCB released the first draft of revisions to the order in response to petitions raised by environmental groups that asserted the existing order did not go far enough to protect groundwater quality. The petitioners challenged the role of third-party coalitions and argued that “it is impossible to implement effective, protective or legally adequate WDRs (Waste Discharge Requirements) where the regional board does not know the owner/operator or location of specific discharge points.”

In accordance with the final order adopted, coalitions will be required to submit grower and field-level nitrogen management and application data, masked by an anonymous identifier, to the Central Valley Water Board. Currently, this information is aggregated by the coalitions and reported in summary to the regional board.

A regional board can require a coalition to disclose a grower identity at its discretion.

In a press release dated Feb. 8, 2018, California Citrus Mutual (CCM) stated that the revisions are expected to add costs for growers. The regional boards will have to add staff and create systems for capturing the reported nitrogen data. The state board has already proposed a fee increase for both the Waste Discharge Regulation and the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program for 2018-19. It is expected that the board will submit a budget change request to the legislature for additional fees and staff positions.

CCM staff is alerting legislative members, particularly those who are on committees with oversight authority of the water board.

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Len Wilcox

Correspondent at Large for Citrus Industry Magazine and AgNet West