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SPRING 2011

New Rules For Farm Water Runoff

In 2003, the State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB) created regulations that led to the formation of local regional water coalitions for the purpose of monitoring agricultural water runoff, and increase water quality awareness and education. Programs such as the Colusa Glenn Subwatershed have worked locally with growers, agricultural commissioners, agricultural and environmental groups and local governments to come up with a cost-effective program addressing the few water quality issues we have had in the Sacramento Valley.

The SWRCB regulations are set to expire and a new draft Framework has been released that is drawing huge concerns from the agricultural community. The Framework proposes to expand the existing regional water monitoring coalitions by requiring a farm-by-farm monitoring program for not only surface water, but groundwater as well. The new program would increase costs significantly, not only for the growers, but for the estimated 250 new staffers the SWRCB would need to hire to effectively run the program.

In early April, at the SWRCB 11- hour public meeting held on this issue, the board heard from many farmers and ranchers, as well as those environmental groups, who support the farm-by-farm monitoring program. The environmental groups feel that agriculture is the biggest problem plaguing water quality in our state, even though the monitoring data does not support their claims.

The SWRCB decided to certify the necessary environmental documents to extend the coalitions monitoring program, but have delayed a decision on the new Framework until their June meeting. In the meantime, agricultural groups, such as Family Water Alliance, have submitted comments and will continue to work with SWRCB staff to assure that an efficient cost-effective program moves forward. ■

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