Treading water took on new meaning for California’s already short-handed and aging array of professional agricultural consultants at the recent 37th annual California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA) conference in Reno, Nevada.

Speaker after speaker hammered home California’s burgeoning water quality regulations and the role Pest Control Advisers (PCAs) and Certified Crop Advisers (CCAs) will play in keeping pesticides and fertilizers, particularly nitrates, out of groundwater and surface water.

This only adds to the environmental responsibilities of these two professional groups as the state moves rapidly toward a virtual zero pollution policy that will mandate every farm and business in the state adopt a management plan to keep water carrying pollutants out of lakes, streams, creeks, irrigation ditches and just about any other water body in the state.

More than 1,200 people — two-thirds PCAs — heard Pamela Creedon, executive director of the California Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board; Jay Vroom, president of the Washington, D.C.-based CropLife America; and Fresno, Calif., ag consultant Bob Ehn hammer home the onerous water quality regulations the future holds for farmers and dairymen.

Creedon vowed she is not the “enemy” and wants to regulate water quality standards to sustain agriculture, not to put it out of business, as many farmers profess the California regional water boards are attempting to do in trying to achieve a zero tolerance. However, while not avowing to be the bad lady, she admits that the regulations will add to the cost of farming and dairying, not to mention hefty fines for pollution.

“I was called a pest this morning,” she chuckled before being a keynoter at the opening general session.

“The primary reason we are doing the things we do is to have a sustainable agricultural economy,” she said. “It is not about ending ag. The reason we want to protect water quality is so ag can survive.”

Creedon oversees the largest of nine regional water quality boards in the state charged with first monitoring water quality and then mandating management plans.

The Central Valley region covers 60,000 square miles from the Sierra to the Coast Range and from the Oregon border to the base of the Tehachapi Mountains in southern Kern County, Calif. It covers 40 percent of California’s land mass and encompasses two major water sheds, the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers. It also enfolds the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta that is the source of 60 percent of California’s drinking water.

It is also home to the second largest contiguous groundwater basin in the state, a major water source for municipal drinking water in the valley and irrigation water for farming.