Management Zone Activities Launched in Six Priority 1 Areas

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.

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Working Collaboratively to Form Management Zones During Challenging Times

Dischargers subject to the new Nitrate Control Program in the six priority 1 groundwater subbasins are making solid progress toward meeting compliance requirements. The work has gone forth despite the challenges of the pandemic. Efforts have been collaborative and tailored to local needs across varied sectors of interest.

Backdrop

In May, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board mailed Notices to Comply (NTCs) to dischargers in the six Priority 1 groundwater subbasins for the new Nitrate Control Program regulations—Modesto, Turlock, Chowchilla, Kings, Kaweah, and Tule. These areas must provide safe drinking water in areas with high nitrate levels and adopt nitrate management plans beginning in 2021.

Those who discharge in these areas must decide soon whether to comply individually with the new requirements (Pathway A) or join with others in the basin to meet the requirements (Pathway B).

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Notices to Comply for Salt Control Program Expected Soon

Backdrop

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.

Phased Approach

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.

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Update on Status - 2020

The Salt and Nitrate Control Program was approved by the State Water Resources Control Board on October 16, 2019 (RESOLUTION NO. 2019-0057) and the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) on January 15, 2020. Approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for specific subsections of the Basin Plan Amendments that fall under federal jurisdiction is still pending. However, the remaining portions of the program became effective on January 17, 2020 after OAL’s Notice of Decision was filed with the California Natural Resources Agency. The Central Valley Water Board sent out Notices to Comply for the Nitrate Control Program in late May 2020. The estimated timeframe for the mail out of the Notices to Comply for the Salt Control Program is currently some time in the Fall of 2020.

Over the last decade, the Central Valley Salinity Coalition (CVSC) has worked side-by-side with the Regional Water Board to prepare the January 2017 Salt and Nitrate Management Plan (SNMP) – the basis for the new Regional Water Board Salt and Nitrate Control Program. For a quick overview of the SNMP and Basin Plan amendment process download our CV-SALTS BROCHURE. For information on individual policies visit the Public Education and Outreach page.  Regulated entities and individuals who wish to learn more about the changes in Nitrate and Salt compliance should visit the CV-SALTS Public Information page.

Update on Status - 2019

On October 16, 2019 the State Water Resources Control Board (RESOLUTION NO. 2019-0057) voted to approve the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board’s (Central Valley Water Board’s) amendments to the Sacramento and San Joaquin Basin Plan and the Tulare Lake Basin Plan to incorporate a Central Valley-wide Salt and Nitrate Control Program (Salt and Nitrate Control Program).  The Basin Plan amendments were adopted by the Central Valley Water Board on May 31, 2018 (RESOLUTION R5-2018- 0034). 

The Salt and Nitrate Control Program provides a new framework for the Regional Water Board to regulate salt and nitrate, while also ensuring a safe drinking water supply. The amendments represent the most significant changes in decades to the regulation of salts and nitrates in the surface and ground waters of Central Valley. With these amendments, the Regional Water Board will be able to ensure safe drinking water in affected areas and offer greater flexibility for discharger compliance. The approval is a monumental milestone for water quality in the Central Valley, bringing much needed progress toward improved surface and ground water quality.

Over the last decade, the Central Valley Salinity Coalition (CVSC) has worked side-by-side with the Regional Water Board to prepare the January 2017 Salt and Nitrate Management Plan (SNMP) – the basis for the new Regional Water Board Salt and Nitrate Control Program. For a quick overview of the SNMP and Basin Plan amendment process download our CV-SALTS BROCHURE. For information on individual policies visit the Public Education and Outreach page.  Regulated entities and individuals who wish to learn more about the changes in Nitrate and Salt compliance should visit the CV-SALTS Public Information page.

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Central Valley Salinity Coalition

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