California’s Central Valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world and is home to almost 20% of California’s population (estimated at over 38 million in 2015). By 2030 the state population is expected to increase by more than 13% to over about 44 million people and by 2050 the population is expected to be close to 50 million people. This steady growth will put significant, increased demands on state and regional water resources. Communities in the Central Valley rely on surface and groundwater to support many beneficial uses, including agriculture and drinking water supplies. However, elevated salt and nitrate concentrations in portions of the Central Valley impair, or threaten to impair, the region’s water and soil quality. Such impairment, in turn, threatens agricultural productivity and/or the region’s drinking water supplies.
While the threats to the region’s water supplies with respect to salts and nitrates is fairly well understood, the solutions for addressing such threats are complex and multi-faceted. As a result, to address these complex issues, a broad coalition of representatives from agriculture, cities, industry, state and federal regulatory agencies and the public (including Environmental Justice advocates on behalf of Disadvantaged Communities and populations) banned together, starting in 2006, to develop an environmentally and economically sustainable plan for the management of salts and nitrates in the Central Valley. This effort became known as the Central Valley Salinity Alternatives for Long-Term Sustainability initiative, or otherwise CV-SALTS.