Map of California Water Quality Coalitions (link)

This week the State Water Resources Control Board voted to change nitrogen requirements for growers in the Eastern San Joaquin River Watershed.

At the same time, the State Water Board established a model for all regional water boards in the state to follow in order to reduce pollution. The moves follow years of consideration described in the previous blog post, “Changes coming for the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program.”

Here’s a link to the State Water Board’s announcement this week.

Below are key points, followed by excerpts detailing changes in the works for growers in the Eastern San Joaquin and around the state. Future blog posts will look in more detail at what the order means for growers.

Key Points

  • Growers must already report nitrogen management data and farm evaluations under the ILRP, with most growers reporting to a Coalition that works with the state.
  • Growers will be measured by a formula A/R that weighs the multi-year ratio of nitrogen applied to the field (A) to nitrogen removed from the field (R).
  • Starting in 2019, each farm will be required to monitor its drinking water wells if not already required to do so by law.

Eastern San Joaquin River Watershed

  • Starting in 2021, the order extends some of the same nitrogen reporting requirements previously only required for areas considered high vulnerability for impacts to groundwater to all agricultural areas, with some exceptions.
  • The order makes other changes to reporting requirements, including the inclusion of new reporting on potential groundwater loading from nitrogen fertilizer use and targets for groundwater quality.


  • Starting in 2019, the order requires that growers monitor for nitrate levels in on-farm drinking water supply wells and notify the users of those wells if water is found to be above drinking water standards. This provision will come into effect if there are no statewide programs requiring the testing of domestic wells by January 1, 2019.
  • Order directs regional water boards to revise their agricultural orders to incorporate testing of drinking water quality for on-farm wells.
  • Tells regional boards to address the long-term goal of improving groundwater and surface water quality through monitoring and controlling agricultural practices, specifically nitrogen management.
  • Board’s order directs regional water boards to require the reporting of nitrogen application to crops from fertilizers, organic soil amendments, and in irrigation water, as well as data on nitrogen removed when crops are harvested and taken from the fields.
  • The order directs the regional water boards to require that growers report on the management practices they are implementing to control pollutants in addition to the use of nitrogen.

What will it cost?

The State Water Board estimated costs of the new requirements in its order. Here are the projections:

  • “For Members in low vulnerability areas, irrigation practices and nitrogen practices must now be reported annually through the INMP Summary Report.”
  • “We estimate that Summary Report preparation represents between two and eight hours of Member employee time, with a cost range of $110 to $960.”
  • For members of coalitions, the board cites an estimate by the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition of a likely “annual cost increase in the range of $310,000, which, according to (the state board’s) rough calculations translates to a 10% increase in the Coalition’s annual budget and would result in a similar increase in Member fees.”
  • "New costs for on-farm drinking water well sampling are “estimated based on two to four hours of a Member’s employee’s time with a cost range of $110 to $480, and $40 in sampling costs per well."
  • "Not all farms have drinking water supply wells and it is anticipated that the bulk of the farms that do will have only one well."

To learn more

Links to the announcement and the order are above.  For information on how aerial imaging can detect water stress in almonds, see this post.

If you're going to the World Ag Expo in Tulare this month, check out a talk by Parry Klassen, executive director of the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition. 

Klassen will speak at Trailer 3 at 10:45 a.m. on Tuesday.  





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The difference between Ceres Imaging and other technologies I've used is the help I get from their expert team.
Jake Samuel, Partner
Samuel Farms
With Ceres Imaging we can take a more targeted approach to applying fertilizer and nutrients.
Brian Fiscalini, Owner
Fiscalini Cheese Company
These flights can cover way more ground and provide more insight than a dozen soil moisture probes — and it's cheaper to implement.
Patrick Pinkard, Assistant Manager
Terranova Ranch
The average Ceres Imaging conductance measurement from its imagery over the season has provided the best correlation with applied water.
Blake Sanden
University of California Cooperative Extension