The State Water Resources Control Board has released a report outlining 15 recommendations for addressing the issue of nitrates in groundwater. The report, mandated by the state legislature, comes nearly a year after the Water Board’s commissioned UC Davis report, which brought significant public focus on the issue of nitrates in groundwater in the Tulare Lake and Salinas Basins.
The report’s most controversial recommendation concerns establishing a funding source to implement programs geared toward groundwater cleanup and creation of a statewide nitrogen fertilizer–application reporting system. Potential funding could be through the imposition of fees on fertilizer users, a point-of-sale fee on agricultural commodities, or a water-use fee from residents to offset the costs of new water systems.
The report also calls for formation of stakeholder groups and state interagency cooperation to tackle the complex issue. The water boards and state Food and Agriculture officials should convene a task force to work on a nitrogen tracking system, the report recommended, and a panel of experts should be convened to assess existing ag nitrate control programs and suggest improvements as needed.
The Almond Board is currently involved with a number of partnerships, expert collaborations and stakeholder groups looking at best management practices and research priorities for reducing the risk of nitrate leaching into groundwater.
Representatives of the Almond Board have also been invited to participate as California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) forms interagency coalitions to focus on the issue.
An interagency task force being assembled by CDFA will assess nitrogen management tracking and data needs in high-risk areas. Additional partnerships with research professionals, including Almond Board staff, will help identify research gaps related to the movement of nitrogen through the soil profile, and identify and implement training programs and tools for growers to aid in regulatory compliance.
Over the last 30 years, the Almond Board has funded significant research focused on the efficient use of nitrogen that has significantly changed the way almond growers manage nutrients in the orchard to reduce the risk of leaching and other off-site movement.
A copy of the full nitrate report and other information related to this process is available online.
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