Many activities are underway to achieve compliance with the new Nitrate Control Program in the Central Valley’s six Priority 1 subbasins, where safe drinking water must be provided in areas with high nitrate levels and nitrate management plans must be adopted beginning in 2021. These subbasins include Modesto, Turlock, Chowchilla, Kings, Kaweah, and Tule.
Early steps on the path toward compliance have included outreach to permittees and disadvantaged community leaders, data collection, cost assessments, provision of drinking water, and progress toward the complex task of Management Zone formation.
Dischargers in Modesto and Turlock subbasins have formed the Valley Water Collaborative, a nonprofit serving as the governance entity for the Management Zone in these subbasins. The 12-member board of directors met for the first time in August, adopted bylaws, and selected consultants to document nitrate contamination and develop plans. Board members represent the irrigated lands coalition, food processors, cities, and dairy, winery, and poultry interests.
In the Chowchilla subbasin, staff from the Madera County Farm Bureau and Water Wise have reached out to permittees to gauge their interest in joining a Management Zone. They have also been gathering required groundwater data. On tap next: discussing governance for the Management Zone and assessing preliminary costs for drinking water supply approaches. Early activities include outreach to disadvantaged communities regarding the safe drinking water options.
In the Kings subbasin, leaders are considering forming one Management Zone to encompass two subbasins, Kings (Priority 1) and Tulare (Priority 2). The boundaries would generally align with the boundaries of the Kings River Water Quality Coalition. Work is underway to collect groundwater quality data and initiate outreach to areas with nitrate problems.
In the Kaweah subbasin, dischargers have formed a Management Zone that coincides with the established Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) Coalition boundary. The ILRP Coalition has already built two drinking water kiosks for the area. In September, the coalition approved forming a non-profit, the Kaweah Water Foundation. The first board meeting took place in mid-September with representatives from the ILRP Coalition, dairy, and other dischargers. Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) will be closely involved in the nitrate management planning.
In the Tule subbasin, the Tule Basin Water Quality Coalition is taking the lead to bring permittees together to form a Management Zone that would include the areas covered by the six GSAs in the basin. Action is underway to provide water kiosks in Pixley, Poplar, and Terra Bella. The Coalition board is assessing the new program requirements and identifying existing programs in the region that can provide data and help manage nitrates and provide safe drinking water.