A “perfect storm” of regulatory proportions seems to be on California agriculture’s horizon, but all hope has not been given up. Not yet at least.

The recent Western Plant Health Regulatory Conference in Sacramento highlighted some of the storms on agriculture’s horizon. Some of those include the emerging regulations related to irrigated lands throughout California. A panel discussion on the matter included two state regulators and two growers.

For years the over use of nitrogen-based fertilizers, plus a complicated mix of naturally-occurring issues related to nitrogen in the soil have state regulators focused on one of the key ingredients to a successful harvest for growers.

“Nitrate is one of the state’s most widespread groundwater contaminants,” said Monica Barricarte, an environmental scientist with the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (CCRWQCB).

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Barricarte cites a 2012 UC Davis nitrate report which blames fertilizers and animal waste applied to croplands as the primary source of such contamination.

Barricarte painted a grim picture for growers and industry leaders at the conference. As one of several examples, she pointed to San Lucas, a tiny community on California’s Central Coast which can no longer use its city wells because of high levels of nitrates in the water. Residents there have been forced to use bottled water for two years while a cleanup and abatement order requires an uninterrupted interim and long-term supply of drinking water.

The toxicity from agricultural pesticides is “among the highest in the state” in the Central Coast region, Barricarte said.