CV-SALTS is an important science, policy and regulatory planning process making significant progress in planning a sustainable future for Central Valley water users. CV-SALTS has an aggressive schedule to prepare a Draft Salt and Nitrate Management Plan (SNMP) for the Central Valley by next summer. This plan has technical/scientific elements of study and information gathering as well as a variety of policy issues, which are being addressed through examples, call archetypes. CV-SALTS has a budget of about $10 million for planning and technical work to complete the SNMP. Because of the size and complexity of the Central Valley, CV-SALTS is focusing on gathering a high level of information needed to make broad policy changes for the entire valley.
Science: The highest level of CV-SALTS work is the Initial Conceptual Model (ICM), a 30,000 foot, 22 zone view of the Central Valley for salt and nitrate water balances, salinity and nitrate trends and 20 year projections. The ICM report will be complete in early summer 2013. The ICM study verifies the high level work with more detailed review in the Kings River and Modesto areas. Once the ICM is complete the SNMP will begin and use a more detailed view, potentially more than three times as many analysis areas, to evaluate areas the ICM indicates need more detailed study.
Water related organizations and agriculture is very involved in CV-SALTS. One of the other technical efforts is gathering existing information on crops, irrigation water, soils, rainfall and water quality to evaluate the differences in water quality needs across the Central Valley. This information will be shown in an agricultural zoning map where like areas can be grouped as a tool for better understanding water quality needs and future regulatory needs. This study will be completed in late summer 2013. Implementation planning is underway with characterization of existing salt and nutrient control projects and methodologies. These will be evaluated and then assessed for the capacity to expand and enhance the processes to address the accumulation of salts and nutrients in the valley. From the initial assessment further study will support decisions about which management alternatives are most appropriate for the various areas and salt issues. Implementation of the projects and practices will still occur on a local scale controlled by regional organizations and communities.
Policy: A significant amount of the time and energy of CV-SALTS is dedicated to addressing critical issues related to salts and nitrate in surface and groundwater and unintended consequences of the basin plans for the Sacramento/San Joaquin and Tulare Lake Basins. These basin plans have elements which date back to the 1970’s and do not efficiently or adequately address issues that are currently confounding both the regulators and regulated community. This slows down good projects resulting in over or under protection of the beneficial uses of the surface and groundwaters. While in some cases over protection may not have a significant cost, in the other areas of the Central Valley salt issues costs can be huge. In some communities, despite regulators working hard to help, the costs due to old basin plan requirements can as much as double the costs of wastewater management.
Archetypes: Because no plan can address all problems, especially in an area as large as the Central Valley we use examples called archetypes to demonstrate how CV-SALTS addresses both science and policy issues. Archetypes removing inappropriate beneficial uses, where water is demonstrated to be naturally too salty to drink or use for agriculture and using the area for salt management is one archetype in the Tulare Lake Bed area. Another archetype looks closely at agricultural drains and the beneficial uses they may or may not actually have for both agriculture and municipal drinking water. Ensuring communities that do not have access to water that meets current nitrate standards is also an archetype that CV-SALTS will be working to ensure the water meets the objectives where it is used.
Addressing salt and nitrate issues helps communities and industry address protecting the waters of the Central Valley better by determining appropriate manageable salt levels, and is a key to future sustainability of the waters and of the communities who use them.