On February 7, the State Water Board adopted an order changing the guidelines for nitrogen management for growers around the state.

Now it’s Parry Klassen’s job to go through 80-plus pages of changes, and to work with nearly 3,400 landowners in the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition who together irrigate 704,670 acres of land in Madera, Merced, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Mariposa counties.

Here's what he had to say about the coming changes when he spoke to growers at the World Ag Expo in Tulare this month.

“Growers are going to not only report their nitrogen applied, but their yield,” Klassen said. “This new order says you have to turn in, not only your applied nitrogen per acre, but the yield you’re getting per acre.”

That’s the intent of the order by the State Water Board--to get growers and the coalitions they report to to think about the yield per applied nitrogen. As time goes by, the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition will track its growers, and reach out to those who fall far outside the norm.

“An outlier could be for several reasons, it doesn’t mean somebody’s doing a bad job,” Klassen said, citing reasons like pests, poor crop, and unusual weather. “The analysis is going to allow us to do a three-year average. If you have one bad year, we’re not going to come knocking on your door.”

While it’s not a perfect approach, Klassen said it would give growers more information, and give more confidence to the water board and the public by demonstrating grower nitrogen practices.

Another change, Klassen said, is reporting.

“Growers in low vulnerability areas are not going to have to get their nitrogen management plans certified,” Klassen said. “They do have to turn in a nitrogen management summary, but they do not have to get it certified by a (registered crop adviser).”

Klassen called out one area the coalition was able to persuade the water board to do things in a grower-friendly way: anonymous reporting.

“We were able to convince the state board to put an anonymous identifier on those reports, which was a big change from what was proposed,” Klassen said, referring to Management Practice Implement Reports.

One more consideration for growers is well testing.

“Any kind of well that serves the public, employees, or the owners, that well has to be sampled starting in 2019,” Klassen said.

Standards for that testing will require quality assurance and quality control protocol, chain of custody documentation, water taken as close to the wellhead as you can, Klassen said.

“It’s not going to be me driving out in my pickup to the well and bottling water and taking it to the lab,” Klassen told the growers. 

Ceres Imaging will continue to cover the changes to the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program on the blog. Next up will be an interview with Darrin Polhemus, the Deputy Director for the Division of Drinking Water.





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