February 2013 Update
An update on activities of the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition
Official Notice of New Groundwater Program General Order
Groundwater Regulations Adopted December 7, 2012
A new program covering groundwater in the ESJWQC region was adopted after a day-long hearing of the Regional Water Board on December 7, 2012. The new General Order or Waste Discharge Requirements (WDR) apply to both surface and groundwater and encompass all irrigated cropland in the region with commercial agriculture. While technical and legal changes were made to the General Order right up until the vote at 6:30 pm, the major provisions remain unchanged from the public draft version released in September 2012.
As part of the new program, members who have paid their 2013 dues can expect in the mail documents that will require a signature. The "Notice of Confirmation" is an acknowledgment that they have been informed by the ESJWQC of the new program. Members who have not yet paid their 2013 dues (deadline February 28) will receive the documents after payment is received. The coalition is required to submit to the Water Board a list of members who signed the notice by May 13.
Coalition to Develop Groundwater Report
One of the coalition's initial responsibilities is to prepare a Groundwater Assessment Report (GAR) covering the 1.1 million-acre farming region. The ESJWQC board recently completed a review of four groundwater consulting firms and selected an entity based in Woodland to assist in developing the GAR.
The GAR, due January 2014, will compile extensive groundwater information including depth to groundwater throughout the region, soil types and nitrate levels. The report will also designate areas in the region as either low or high vulnerability. The vulnerability rankings describe the potential risk of discharges of sediment or farm inputs (fertilizers or pesticides) to either surface water or groundwater. Under the new regulations, members in high vulnerable areas will have additional reporting requirements.
New Member Reporting Requirements
For all coalition members, the WDR adds new reporting requirements which include:
Farm Evaluation Plan describing measures the farm is taking to protect surface and ground water quality. The plan is completed once and updated annually, depending on the vulnerability designation. In low vulnerability areas, plans are kept at the farm headquarters but must be provided to the Regional Water Board upon request. Members in high vulnerability areas must submit plans to the coalition for compilation by region.
Nitrogen Management Plans summarize nitrogen fertilizer applications compared to crop production. The annual plan, the first due in 2014 or 2016, depending on the farm size and vulnerability designation, will list the previous year's nitrogen use and projected use for the upcoming season. In high vulnerability areas, the plan must be signed off by a Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) or a grower trained to self-certify the plan. Members in low vulnerability areas keep the plan at the farm headquarters and need no sign-off.
Sediment and Erosion Control Plans are required if a field has irrigation drainage or frequent storm water runoff into surface waters. Areas where these plans will be required are to be outlined in a report due to the Water Board in January 2014.
For all of the new plans, the Coalition has until April 11, 2013 to submit proposed templates to the Regional Water Board. Plan details are being refined by a working group made up of Central Valley coalitions and commodity organizations.
In addition, members must attend at least one coalition sponsored (or co-sponsored) education/outreach event. Members also must keep a copy of the General Order at the farm headquarters and be familiar with its contents. Copies of the order are available on the coalition's website or copies will be provided on request.
Further details on the program will be provided when the Notice of Confirmation is sent to members.
New Member Holiday
As part of the WDR, the Regional Water Board has set a new member holiday where farming operations with potential discharges to groundwater can join a third party without first applying to the Water Board, as is now required. The membership holiday ends on May 13, 2013. Existing members can also add acreage to a membership if it was not previously included.
The Regional Water Board began mailing letters in late January to 4700 commercial farming entities in the ESJWQC region that have irrigated parcels not currently on coalition roles. Parcels were identified by the Regional Water Board by searching the county tax assessor roles for APNs listed as commercial agriculture but were not on the ESJWQC membership list. The search found more than 250,000 acres of irrigated cropland in the coalition region not covered by the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program or Dairy General Order. These landowners will need either an individual permit or coverage through ESJWQC to be in compliance with the new regulation.
Read more about the new ESJWQC General Order at http://www.esjcoalition.org/General Order.asp
Document Completion Due Dates
1 High Vulnerability – either surface or groundwater.
2012 Coalition Board of Directors
East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition contacts: