Most importantly to the CAPCA gathering, this region contains 80 percent of the 9 million irrigated lands in the state — more than 7 million acres. And an estimated 3 million of that is considered critical for nitrate and salt pollution. It also contains nearly 80 percent of the dairies in the state, an estimated 1,500 operations.

The program is currently focused on water quality monitoring to see if and where pollutants are getting into waterways, but that will soon change as the agency starts mandating managing plans in 2012 for various areas within the Central Valley region. Every farm must have a best management plan in place within the next five years.

Most of these areas match farmer-created coalitions which were formed to mitigate the cost of the new regulations. It would be very expensive for individual farms to do the mandatory monitoring, although each farm will eventually be required to have a water quality management plan. Coalitions were formed to more economically monitor waters.

Creedon said her agency has tried to draw stakeholders into this monitoring and regulation drafting process. It has been somewhat successful with the coalitions. Others like CAPCA, California Department of Pesticide Regulations, commodity groups and environmental organizations are playing roles in this process.

However, she said she is “amazed at how many are sitting on the sideline and coming in too late to have an impact on the situation.” She encouraged industry input so regulators may understand industries affected by the surface and groundwater protection regulations.

All farmers and dairies in the state will soon be required to evaluate their water management practices and evaluate how they impact water quality and adopt best management practices to mitigate any pollutants.

“This is not just about restoring water quality, but about protecting the high quality water areas we have,” she said.

Since pesticides, fertilizer, salts and sediments have been identified as possible pollutants, it will be the PCA and CCA who will carry even more responsibilities than they now have in meeting the new water quality mandates. PCAs are mostly involved with pesticides. They are licensed by DPR and are charged with writing pesticide recommendations. CCAs are accredited by the American Society of Agronomy and overseen by a California board of directors. It is a voluntary certification program for individuals that provide advice to growers on crop management and inputs. A CCA is one of the professionals that must certify nutrient management plans for dairies that are being mandated by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board.

More than 80 percent of the California CCAs are also licensed PCAs.

Creedon said these two groups are “front and center … playing a critically important role” in working with farmers and dairymen in making sure what is used on the farm does not become a pollutant.

Farmers, she admitted, do not like to talk to regulators. She encouraged professional consultants to work closer with the grower coalitions and in communicating with growers and dairymen on the importance of complying with the growing water quality regulations.

It can be costly if a producer is caught polluting, intentionally or otherwise. It has already cost one farmer $300,000 in fines who was found in violation of interim water quality protection regulations, she said. It undoubtedly could get more expensive in the future.