At a State Water Resources Control Board hearing, the agriculture community called for peer review of a recently released University of California, Davis study on nitrates in groundwater, emphasizing it did not use existing data from authoritative sources and contains material deficiencies that should be examined before the State Water Resources Control Board uses the report as a basis for policy decisions.

“The State Water Board must have the benefit of a scientifically defensible study that meets the legislative mandate and has been peer reviewed,” said Dave Puglia, Sr. Vice President of Western Growers Association. Puglia presented testimony on behalf of a coalition of agriculture organizations that also includes: California Seed Association, California Pear Growers, California Grain and Feed, Pacific Egg and Poultry, and the California Farm Bureau Federation, among others.

(For more, see: Groundwater nitrate issue dumped in agriculture’s lap)

Among the research not cited in the U.C. Davis report were nitrates studies conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. Further, agricultural interests say the report actually contains errors and omissions. In Monterey County, for example, more than 5,100 samples were repeat tests of 4,700 wells, meaning that a substantial number of wells were double or triple counted. The report also skews the data by counting wells that are now in compliance with the nitrate standard – including wells that did not exist in 2000 and wells that no longer exist today – as exceedence wells. Finally, the report fails to generate a truly geographically representative sample as required by USGS.

Allen Ishida, a Tulare County citrus grower and county supervisor, also called on the Water Board to consider how technologies that could determine the source of nitrates, as well as the age of the water supply, would be helpful in generating a more accurate picture of how and when nitrates are entering groundwater.

State Water Board Chair Charles Hoppin committed to a robust stakeholder process going forward, which was welcomed by the agriculture community.

“Agriculture is committed to continuing to work toward a long-term solution that will ensure clean drinking water for affected communities,” said Puglia. “Nitrate management has been a priority of agriculture for years and much progress has been made. But a long-term solution must be based on reliable and scientifically defensible data, which the State Water Board currently doesn’t have.”

For more information, please read Western Growers’ presentation materials or contact Bill Romanelli at (916) 554-3400 or cell 916-212-1446.