High levels of salt in the waters and soils of the Central Valley are being addressed as part of the state’s new Salt and Nitrate Control Program. The State Water Resources Control Board approved the Central Valley-wide program as part of its action on October 16, 2019, to amend the Sacramento and San Joaquin Basin Plan and the Tulare Lake Basin Plan. The Basin Plan amendments were adopted by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board in May of the prior year.
The amendments constitute the most significant changes in decades to the regulation of salts and nitrates in the surface waters and groundwaters of the Central Valley. They are aimed at ensuring safe drinking water supplies in affected areas, protecting the beneficial uses of water, and offering greater flexibility for compliance among dischargers.
The Salt Control Program is proceeding in phases. Phase 1 involves development of the Prioritization and Optimization Study (P&O Study), which is a comprehensive study and analysis of sources, management approaches, and projects to reduce salt accumulations and to collect or remove salts. It will take 10 to 15 years to complete. To learn more about the P&O Study, click here.
Notices to Comply Coming Soon
While the Phase 1 P&O study is under way, two options are available for salt compliance. Notices to Comply with the Salt Control Program are due to be mailed out in January 2021.
Option 1 constitutes a Conservative Option for Salt Permitting. Under this option, permitted dischargers who elect not to participate in the P&O Study must meet limits designed to protect the most sensitive beneficial use, and such limits will be based on conservative, numerical values as identified in the Basin Plan.
Option 2 represents an alternative option for salt permitting. Permittees choosing this option must participate in the region-wide P&O Study – paying annual dues to do so—and remain in compliance with permit provisions applicable to their discharge. Option 2 is expected to cost less than Option 1 and will allow permittees to defer more stringent and costly permitting requirements associated with Option 1 until such requirements are reevaluated once the P&O Study is completed.
More information about these options can be found here.