News and Events

Coastal Grower Magazine – Fall 2013

Coalition Expanding Groundwater Monitoring to Southern Central Coast

October 10, 2013  – CCGC press information

Salinas, CA – The State Water Board on September 24 extended the deadline to join a groundwater cooperative program and opened the opportunity for additional programs to be created or expanded.  The newly created Central Coast Groundwater Cooperative (CCGC) is taking the steps necessary to expand membership to landowners/growers in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and northern Ventura counties, the entire area encompassed by the Region 3 Water Board.

This week, the CCGC began its efforts seeking members in the southern counties.  The organization currently has 289 landowner/grower members with 133,000 acres of cropland in Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Benito and Santa Clara counties.  Those members are covered by a groundwater monitoring plan approved by the Regional Water Board on July 11, 2013.  CCGC is preparing a modified version of the northern plan for submission to the Regional Water Board that is expected to be approved in coming weeks.  The State Water Board set November 1, 2013 as the deadline for all growers in Region 3 wanting to participate in a coalition, including growers in the northern counties who missed the earlier deadline to join.

CCGC was formed to assist growers in the sampling, analysis and characterization of their groundwater aquifers to comply with the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program.  Member dues support the sampling of drinking water wells, preparing required reports and performing administrative activities of the organization.

Dues for new members in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and northern Ventura counties are $13 an acre for the four year period.  On sign up, members are being asked to pay $6 an acre with their initial membership application, plus $1 an acre to partially offset the $140,000 cost growers in the north paid to develop the approved plan.  The second dues payment will be payable in early 2015. This dues payment schedule is necessary because the most intensive work must be performed in the first 18 months of the program. The second dues amount will be reduced if membership exceeds current estimates and costs stay as budgeted.

A stipulation of the recent State Board decision is that anyone joining after September 24 will have to complete the individual groundwater monitoring requirements even if they join a CCGC.  New members are being given the option of paying $1/acre to CCGC to perform individual groundwater monitoring requirements (even if you chose the individual option and completed some of the required monitoring).  Member’s groundwater monitoring requirements will be covered until 2017.

The benefits of membership in CCGC:

  • CCGC promotes growers’ joining forces to comply with the regulatory requirements of the Central Coast Regional Water Board.
  • CCGC uses experts in groundwater to create an accurate characterization of the aquifers covered by the plan, using science-based, aggregated reporting. This information will be used as a basis for the next Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP).  Negotiations are expected to begin in 2014.

For more information
Parry Klassen
831-240-9533
pklassen@unwiredbb.com


Groundwater monitoring under way

Aug. 19, 2013 – The Californian

In January 2013, a group of agricultural interests began developing a cooperative groundwater monitoring plan in response to Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) requirements for groundwater monitoring (also known as the “Ag Waiver”). The agricultural groups included Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, Western Growers and the farm bureaus of Monterey, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and San Benito counties. The plan was adopted by the Regional Water Board on July 11 and the Central Coast Groundwater Cooperative was founded in July.

The organization’s primary function is to fulfill groundwater quality regulatory requirements in the ILRP of the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board for growers and landowners in the counties of Monterey, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and San Benito. A key component of the plan is sampling drinking water wells of selected cooperative members. That information will be compiled into a report with contour maps developed to characterize groundwater quality throughout the region.

Participating in the cooperative has multiple benefits for member landowners and growers. The organization combines the resources of its members to achieve economies of scale to comply with the regulatory requirements of the Regional Water Board. The cooperative will also provide information for future discussions about groundwater quality by using experts in groundwater to create an accurate characterization of the basins covered by the plan, using science-based, aggregated reporting.

Results from well sampling will provide growers, regulators and the public a better understanding of aquifers and geology in the region. Information collected on tested wells will include depth to groundwater, well perforation levels as well as quality parameters such as nitrates and total dissolved solids. In instances where the cooperative deems it appropriate, additional isotope testing and identification of nitrates coming from non-agricultural sources will be conducted. This information will then be compiled into a report to the Regional Water Board that will include maps showing areas where groundwater quality exceeds drinking water limits for nitrates and other constituents, due in September 2014.

The program’s findings will provide agriculture and the community with a basis of understanding and scientific background for the next ILRP developed by the regional board. Additionally, the data points collected in this program will be chosen based on their accuracy and ability to effectively characterize the aquifer.

We believe good data equals smart policy. For information about this program, or how to join, contact Abby Taylor-Silva at Grower-Shipper at abby@growershipper.com or 831-422-8844. Applications are due Aug. 28.

Abby Taylor-Silva is vice president of policy and communications with the Grower-Shipper Association.


Coalition will test groundwater
on Central Coast

Sep. 11, 2013 – Ag Alert

To increase understanding of groundwater quality and how Central Coast aquifers work, farmers and ranchers in four counties have formed a coalition for cooperative well-water testing to share costs and reporting requirements. The new organization provides services to landowners and growers in Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties, intended to assist with regulatory compliance.

Cooperative organizers—including Farm Bureaus in the four counties, the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California and Western Growers—said testing services meet reporting requirements under the 2012 Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program adopted by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. The cooperative’s funding to meet program requirements comes from member dues.

Early participation estimates suggest owners of as many as 150,000 acres could join the water quality testing effort, which will be known as the Central Coast Groundwater Coalition.

Organizers say well sampling will provide farmers, regulators and the public with a better understanding of local aquifers and regional geology—including depth to water, well perforation levels and quality parameters for nitrates and total dissolved solids.

From a farmer perspective, Uesugi Farms general manager Pete Aiello said, the testing program brings a wider breadth of knowledge about local groundwater and its quality.

“We can then share that information with each other and learn things we wouldn’t know if we were going it alone,” said Aiello, who serves as president of the Santa Clara County Farm Bureau. “By collaborating, we pool our resources and hire experts like hydrogeologists, water consultants and those who’ve organized water testing coalitions before.”

He noted that the executive director of the Central Coast Groundwater Coalition will be Parry Klassen, a Central Valley fruit grower who also manages the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition, another agricultural water testing group.

Aiello said he anticipates the data quality on the area’s groundwater resources will be very good, yielding information not before available that will help improve decision making about future groundwater-protection measures.

“This kind of cooperative testing program benefits farmers, the regional water board and the public,” Aiello said. “Everybody wins through this approach.”

Central Coast farms and ranches identified as “Tier 3” under the 2012 regulatory program must provide information annually about nitrate ranges in primary irrigation sources. The cooperative program aims to fulfill monitoring and reporting requirements for its participants.

“Participating in the cooperative has multiple benefits,” said Abby Taylor-Silva of the Grower-Shipper Association. “By combining forces, members can ensure compliance while generating high-quality data about the aquifer. The collected data also will provide an accurate characterization of the groundwater basins for future water quality discussions.”

Should testing of drinking water wells reveal nitrate levels exceeding standards, Taylor-Silva said samples may be tested for additional constituents and isotope testing may be used to understand the age and source of nitrates, such as from legacy or historical crop production, septic systems or other sources, a benefit unique to the coalition.

Only wells sourcing drinking water will be sampled, which could include irrigation wells in certain cirsumstances, Taylor-Silva said.

Testing results will be provided to farmers, landowners and the regional water board by September 2014 and yearly after that.

Landowners and farmers may choose to meet groundwater monitoring requirements individually. Regulations require testing primary irrigation wells and all wells used for drinking water twice a year, with the first sample collected and tested during the fall of 2013 and the second during the spring of 2014.

Individual groundwater monitoring guidance is available online at www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralcoast/water_issues/programs/ag_waivers/index.shtml.

The collaborative water testing approach being used on the Central Coast adds to the list of farmer-funded programs, said Danny Merkley, California Farm Bureau Federation water resources director. Central Valley farmers, including dairy operators, have been successfully working together to test groundwater for some time, he said.

The four-county Central Coast groundwater testing cooperative is one of several new groups providing water quality testing services to farmers in the region and to the regional water board.

“The official deadline to join the coalition recently passed,” Merkley said. “If you missed the deadline, I suggest contacting a coalition representative immediately to see if there’s still an opportunity to sign up.”

He said county Farm Bureaus, the Grower-Shipper Association and Western Growers have conducted thorough outreach, “but this is harvest season and there may be some people who would like to participate in the program but haven’t yet submitted a membership application and dues payment.” There may still be time to join, Merkley said, “but the window is quickly closing, under instructions from the regional water board.”

Information on how to participate and on costs is available from county Farm Bureau offices or the Central Coast Groundwater Coalition website at www.centralcoastgc.org.