On October 10, 2017, the California State Water Resources Control Board (“Water Board”) issued the second version of an order to modify agricultural waste discharge requirements (“Proposed Order”), under the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (“ILRP”).  Through the ILRP, the Water Board regulates discharges from irrigated agricultural lands across the state, especially within California’s Central Valley.  Regulation of agricultural water discharges is important because such discharges can affect water quality by transporting pollutants, including pesticides, sediment, nutrients, salts, pathogens, and heavy metals, from cultivated fields into surface waters.

The first draft of the Proposed Order was issued by the Water Board in February 2016, and was significantly revised following two Water Board public workshops.  In contrast to the first draft, the October 10th Proposed Order does not require farmers to submit data to the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (“Regional Board”) identifying growers by name and field location.  However, the Proposed Order requires farmers to monitor and report nitrate levels in on-farm drinking water supply wells.  Nitrogen is a prime focus on the Proposed Order, including requirements for growers to report nitrogen application and management practices.  Such requirements are a result of both comments from environmental and community organizations, and a nitrogen tracking task force, according to the Water Board.

If the Water Board adopts the Proposed Order, it would revise the waste discharge requirements for the Eastern San Joaquin Watershed which were issued by the Regional Board in 2012.  This watershed constitutes about one million acres of irrigated agricultural land.  The agricultural industry has critiqued the Proposed Order because it imposes a plethora of new, more stringent requirements.

The Water Board will hear public comment on the Proposed Order in a public workshop on December 6, 2017, and written comments are due on December 15, 2017.