Like other parts of the United States, impairment of water quality by agriculture is a major concern in California. In Ventura County, the Calleguas Creek (Fig. 1) and the Santa Clara River (Fig. 2) watersheds have 50,000 and 60,000 irrigated agricultural acres, respectively. These watersheds are considered impaired by agricultural contaminants such as nutrients, salts, and pesticides (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2013). In 1967, California formed the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB, 2013) to oversee that the state maintains water quality and properly allocates its water sources for beneficial uses. The SWRCB developed nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCBs). Each of these agencies is responsible for developing and enforcing water quality plans in their region, taking into consideration their region’s differences in climate and water uses. The Calleguas Creek and Santa Clara River watersheds are under the jurisdiction of Region 9, the Los Angeles RWQCB. The Los Angeles RWQCB adopted a Conditional Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements for those that discharge water from irrigated agricultural land (California State Water Resources Control Board, 2013). The current “Conditional Ag Waiver” for this region was adopted in Oct. 2010 and lasts for 5 years. The program requires that either individual land managers or “discharge groups” such as farmers for a particular stream reach monitor water draining from irrigated agricultural land and implement additional BMPs as necessary to reduce nutrient and pesticide runoff. They must also complete 8 hours of farm water quality education (California Regional Water Quality Control Board, 2013; Newman, 2011).
A 3-year project was designed to assist Ventura County growers in meeting the regional water quality objectives. The cooperators in this project addressed three main goals: increase farmer and landowner understanding of local agricultural water quality issues; identify gaps or deficiencies in current management practices in agricultural operations; and reduce the contribution of nutrients, pesticides, and other pollutants to impaired water bodies. To achieve these goals, the project included: the dissemination of self-assessment questionnaires, documentation of current BMPs, and education and outreach to targeted grower groups.
California Regional Water Quality Control Board 2013 Regional board FAQ about the conditional waiver program. Conditional waiver of waste discharge requirements for discharges from irrigated lands within the Los Angeles region. 25 Mar. 2013. <http://www.farmbureauvc.com/pdf_forms/ConditionalWaiver.pdf>
California State Water Resources Control Board 2013 25 June 2013. <http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/land_disposal/waste_discharge_requirements.shtml>
Farm Bureau of Ventura County 2013 Frequently asked questions about VCAILG and the conditional waiver. 25 June 2013. <http://www.farmbuereauvc.com/pdf_forms/FAQ_About_VCAILG.pdf>
Newman, J. 2011 ‘New’ ag waivers from two regional water quality control boards. UCNFA News 15:1–4. 17 June 2013. <http://ucanr.edu/sites/UCNFAnews/Download_Newsletter_PDF/?newsitem=29558>
State Water Resources Control Board 2013 Irrigated lands regulatory program. 25 Mar. 2013. <http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/agriculture/docs/about_agwaivers.pdf>
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) 2013 Watershed assessment, tracking and environmental results. 14 June 2013. <http://iaspub.epa.gov/waters10/attains_state.control?p_state=CA&p_cycle=2010>
Ventura County Agriculture Irrigated Lands Group (VCAILG) 2008 2007 Water quality management plan. 25 Mar. 2013. <http://www.farmbureauvc.com/pdf_forms/water_quality_plan_2007.pdf>
Ventura County Agriculture Irrigated Lands Group (VCAILG) 2010 2009 annual monitoring report. 25 Mar. 2013. <http://www.farmbureauvc.com/pdf_forms/2009_VCAILG_Report.pdf>