Central Valley Salt & Nitrate Management Plan

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.

CV-SALTS was tasked with developing a Salt and Nitrate Management Plan (SNMP) for the entirety of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board’s (Central Valley Water Board’s) jurisdictional area (also referred to as the “Central Valley” or “Region 5”). The Central Valley SNMP builds on a range of water quality management policies and mechanisms already in existence, proposes additional policies and tools needed to provide the Central Valley Water Board with flexibility in addressing legacy and ongoing loading of salt and nitrate in the diverse region, and presents a comprehensive regulatory and programmatic approach for the sustainable management of salt and nitrate.

Although broader in overall scope, the SNMP is also being developed to meet requirements set forth in the State Recycled Water Policy (RWP), adopted in 2009 by the State Water Resources Control Board. The RWP provides statewide direction regarding the appropriate criteria to be used when issuing permits for recycled water projects. In addition, one of the overarching goals of the RWP is to develop salt and nutrient management plans (for groundwater basins or sub-basins) that are sustainable on a long-term basis and to provide the state with clean, abundant water.

Documents related to the Central Valley SNMP development can be accessed through the drop down menu above or at the following links: