Increased rates of nutrient enrichment in surface water bodies have led to detrimental impacts to aquatic ecosystems; these impacts include algal blooms, fish kills, and dead zones. Environmental groups and concerned citizens have begun to demand greater protection and restoration of our natural waterways, because both human and ecological uses are currently impaired as a result of increased rates of nutrient and sediment loading. Many policies have been enacted in regions throughout the United States to reduce nutrient loading with the ultimate goal of improving surface water quality and restoring ecological function (e.g., fisheries, native plant communities) [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2010a, 2010b, 2012].
Concern for aquatic ecosystem health has led to federal enforcement of the EPA Clean Water Action Plan in two current cases, which include: the numeric nutrient criterion imposed on surface waters in Florida and the Chesapeake Bay consent decree where total maximum daily loads were imposed to reduce nutrient loading into surface waters (U.S. EPA, 1998, 2010a, 2010b). These nutrient load reduction mandates impact all sectors of society, including industrial, urban, and agricultural water users, because wastewater from all of these land use types contribute to the overall load of nutrients within an ecosystem, regardless of whether the wastewater is considered to be from a point source or a nonpoint source.
Many horticultural crop producers are being impacted in Florida and the Chesapeake Bay watershed (Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia); these states are currently implementing changes in practice or evaluating potential changes to moderate the amount of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and sediment in wastewater leaving farms. Additional nutrient regulations will likely impact additional horticultural crop producers throughout the United States over the next decade, because degrading surface water quality is a national issue. Without an adequate understanding of the complex issues surrounding agricultural water use and reuse, scientists, policymakers, and extension specialists alike will not be able to address the multifaceted management problems that horticultural crop producers are likely to face in the coming years. In light of these complex issues and the need for open discourse among these groups, the American Society for Horticultural Science Nursery Crops working group convened a colloquium entitled “Regulating Water Quality: Current Legislation, Future Impacts,” cosponsored with the Water Utilization and Management, Waste Utilization in Horticulture, and Floriculture working groups to educate attendees regarding 1) the current state of nutrient-based legislation; 2) the impact of Florida Department of Environmental Quality imposed numeric nutrient criterion on growers’ changing practices in Florida; and 3) the remediation technologies available for growers’ compliance with mandated nutrient and sediment limits for runoff from production areas.
Douglas, D. 2012 Federal court issues mixed ruling on criteria for Florida nutrient standards. Daily Environment Report™. 22 Feb. 2012. 17 Dec. 2012. <http://www.bna.com/federal-court-issues-n12884907984/>
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Office of Agricultural Water Policy 2011 TMDLs and agricultural BMPs. 20 Dec. 2012. <http://www.floridaagwaterpolicy.com/PDF/Ag_Bmps_and_Florida_Tmdls.pdf>
Merhaut, D.J., Corkidi, L., Mochizuki, M., Webb, S. & Newman, J. 2013 Implementation of best management practices to reduce agricultural TMDLs in the Calleguas Creek and Santa Clara River watersheds: A case study of water reclamation in California HortScience 48 1109 1112
Stanton, E.A. & Taylor, M. 2012 Valuing Florida’s clean waters. Stockholm Environment Institute–U.S. Center
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2010a Draft Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily load. Section 9. 19 Dec. 2012. <http://www.epa.gov/reg3wapd/tmdl/ChesapeakeBay/drafttmdlexec.html>
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2010b Final water quality standards for the state of Florida’s lakes and flowing waters. Office of Water. EPA-820-F-10-008
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2012 Multiple EPA Actions Related to Nutrient Pollution in Florida Waterways. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water. Watershed Events. EPA-820-F-12-053
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 1998 President Clinton announces Clean Water Action Plan. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water. Watershed Events. 840-N-98-001