The regional board just released a draft management plan that will go further to achieve goals of reducing (by 2025) 80 percent of agricultural tailwater or treating it; 80 percent of nitrates in groundwater; 80 percent surface water meeting toxicity or pesticide specific water quality objectives; 80 percent of surface water meeting sediment water quality objectives, and ensure that 80 percent of aquatic habitat is healthy.

This plan is subject to stakeholder review over the next few months with a water quality control board meeting scheduled for March to take comments on the plan.

It includes such things as:

  • Mandating farmers implement irrigation and nutrient management measures to reduce pollution with photo documentation of actions taken by producers.
  • Using cover crops to reduce sediments moving off the land.
  • Lining or cementing pond floors to prevent runoff water leaching into the groundwater.

McCann left little doubt that farming in coastal areas will change forever — if the water board has its way. This would include not only water management, but pesticide applications as well. It was interesting that McCann only gave lip service to other alternatives, like publicly funded wastewater treatment like is used in cities to preserve food production.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has waded into the water protection issue with a new set of drift mitigation regulations to put on its own regulatory stamp to protect surface water, according to Patricia Matteson, IPM specialist with DPR.

These include:

  • Most ground applications shall not be made within 25 feet of any sensitive aquatic site.
  • Air blast, high-pressure (greater than 60 psi) wand or high-pressure hand gun applications shall not be made within 100 feet of any sensitive aquatic site.
  • Aerial applications shall not be made within 150 feet of any sensitive aquatic site.
  • Aerial applications to deciduous plants during the dormant season shall only be allowed if soil conditions do not allow field entry, or approaching bloom conditions necessitate aerial application, and if the operator of the property obtains a written recommendation from a licensed pest control adviser.

The following uses and sites are exempt from the new requirements.

  • Apiaries
  • Aquaculture
  • Livestock production (meat or milk)
  • Post-harvest commodity treatment on the farm
  • Poultry production (meat or eggs)
  • Injections into soil
  • Applications immediately incorporated into soil. If incorporation is by irrigation, the irrigation shall be applied at rates than do not cause runoff.
  • Applications to animal burrows
  • Injections into or painted or wicked onto trees, shrubs, or other plants
  • Intentional applications to water
  • Applications as enclosed baits

An impetus for these new regulations is the mandated National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. This permit process is the result of a successful lawsuit over the application of an herbicide in an irrigation canal that killed fish in the Pacific Northwest several years ago. A federal appeals court upheld the verdict that a pesticide application permit was needed to protect water. All states are now being required to develop a NPDES permit process. California has been developing one, since the initial court ruling was handed down.