What is in this article?:
- Some Central Valley growers on the forefront of cooperation with state regulators over water quality issues.
- Nitrates remain one of California’s most widespread water contaminants.
- California growers must meet new waste discharge requirements and file nitrogen management plans with the state.
Water regulations on irrigated lands are major issue facing California growers. Those speaking to the issue at a recent Western Plant Health Association Regulatory Conference included, from left, Joe Karkoski of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, and grower representatives Parry Klassen and Kay Mercer.
Mercer highlighted some history of the Central Coast region and looked at current problems facing the region from an agricultural standpoint.
For instance, Mercer said the tri-tiered ag order enacted by the water board looks solely at the use of nitrogen, and not its discharge into water sources. “This is a huge deal,” she said.
Crops all have varying rates of nitrogen uptake, she said, noting that many of the tools growers have to measure with are “crude, unsophisticated, partially effective and insufficient.”
Other problems Mercer sees include:
- The number of people qualified to take water samples in the region is lacking;
- Universities are not properly educating ag students of the regulatory challenges growers face and how to help growers address them; and
- Insurance companies are beginning to consider their own liabilities as they consider whether to insure growers.
Along with Barricarte, Karkoski and Mercer, the panel included Parry Klassen, a Central Valley peach grower and the executive director of the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition. Mercer and Klassen gave agriculture’s perspective to regulations on irrigated lands in California.
Klassen represents a coalition of agricultural interests organized to collectively address state agricultural regulations. Formed similarly to that of a cooperative, the East SJ Water Quality Coalition is the first of several ag coalitions in the state to develop a water quality plan with state regulators.
“We are working hard to get ready for the new waste discharge requirements,” Klassen said, noting some praise for state water board officials.
“We negotiated our way through these regulations,” Klassen continued. “We have to give credit to the regional board in that they are very responsive when we provide scientific argument that something they are doing doesn’t make sense. They are often willing to change their approach when we have the proof.”