Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program Update

Irrigated Lands Regulatory Order 


The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has set forth requirements under a revised irrigated lands regulatory program (ILRP), to regulate discharges from irrigated lands, both surface and groundwater sources.  The first order in the Valley, the Eastside San Joaquin water coalition adopted their new revised requirements on December 7, 2012. The Tulare Lake Basin WDR and ILRP was the second order and was adopted on September 19, 2013.

In addition to the ILRP revisions, state regulators plan to address nitrate issues by requiring farmers to document and limit their use of nitrogen-based fertilizer, which, if over-applied, can seep into the groundwater and become toxic nitrates. Although a separate but inherently related issue, there are many concerns from the agricultural industry on how these regulations will impact their irrigated lands management.

Farmers in high vulnerability areas for nitrate contamination — which includes more than half of the irrigated land in the Valley — would be required to submit their nutrient reports for review by the regional water board. Farmers in areas of low vulnerability would be expected to produce nitrogen budgets on request.

It is expected that larger acreage operations will have to work with a Certified Crop Advisor to develop their nutrient reports, whereas smaller farms may be allowed to self-certify their reports unless there are certain criteria not adequately addressed.

Growers who currently participate in a water coalition monitoring program will most likely see an increase in their enrollment fees per acre. Those who previously were not considered a surface water “discharger” should now consider that all groundwater and irrigation water applied to farmland is part of the new order and will cast the net much larger over basically all production farmland. If your farm is not currently enrolled in a coalition group, you may need to assess the costs of doing your own monitoring, or consider the value of joining a coalition.

All three third-party coalitions that cover Tulare County took enrollment of new acreage in 2014 and are available to assist growers with this regulatory program. Even though the enrollment deadlines have passed – it may be possible to still enroll in the Coalition, please contact them directly to find out if any past due fees or penalties would apply.

If you fail to enroll in a third-party group coalition you will have to apply thru the Regional Water Board to join, or may have to pay fines and/or seek an individual waste discharge permit which may be much more difficult to obtain and costly.

Important Links

To join the Water Quality Coalition in your area, contact the coalition below where you own irrigated farm land.  You may have to join more than one coalition if you own land in more than one service area.

Kaweah Basin Water Quality Association

P.O. Box 2840

Visalia, CA 93279

Tel: (559) 302-1620

Fax: (559) 636-1177

E-mail: admin@kaweahbasin.org

Website: www.kaweahbasin.org

Tule Basin Water Quality Coalition

2904 W. Main Street

Visalia, CA 93291

Tel: (559) 627-2948

E mail: info@tbwqc.com

Website: www.tbwqc.com

Kings River Water Quality Coalition

P.O. Box 8259

Fresno, CA 93747

Tel: (559) 365-7958

E-mail: info@kingsriverwqc.org

Website: www.kingsriverwqc.org

To visit the Central Valley Regional Water Board’s informational page about the Irrigated Lands Regulatory program, visit their website.  Click here.

To learn more about the South San Joaquin Valley Water Quality Coalition an umbrella organization over the three coalitions referenced above, click here.

Updated 06/2020

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