The Northern California Water Association has partnered with agricultural representatives, wetlands managers, natural resource professionals, and local governments throughout the region to improve water quality for Northern California farms, cities and the environment. The Sacramento Valley Water Quality Coalition (Coalition) emerged to enhance and improve water quality in the Sacramento River, while sustaining the economic viability of agriculture, functional values of managed wetlands, and sources of safe drinking water. The Coalition in June 2003 submitted a Regional Plan for Action to the State Water Resources Control Board and the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Board) to implement various regulatory programs, including the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program and Total Maximum Daily Loads. The California Rice Commission also has a water quality program for the unique ricelands in the Sacramento Valley.
The foundation for the Regional Plan for Action is the “Monitoring and Reporting Program Plan” (MRPP), which was first implemented in April 2004. The Coalition in 2008 refined the MRPP to reevaluate waterways, identify drainages with the highest and most inclusive irrigated agriculture, and use water quality data from those sites to represent other similar areas. Based on the surface water quality results collected, the Coalition proposed a much more focused monitoring program. In December 2009, the Water Board approved a five-year specific MRPP that focused surface water quality monitoring and analysis on the pesticides, herbicides, nutrients and other agricultural products specifically used locally in the subwatersheds of the Sacramento Valley. The Annual Monitoring Reports are available for review on the Sacramento Valley Water Quality Coalition website.
In 2014, the Regional Water Board expanded the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) to include new requirements of growers and the Coalition. The new requirements addressed the Regional Water Board’s initiative to ensure groundwater quality protection was part of the ILRP. New Waste Discharge Requirements (WDR) were imposed throughout the Central Valley which requires growers to document farm irrigation and pesticide management practices, document and in some cases report nitrogen usage, identify if sediment discharged from fields, and attend meetings to learn about water quality impairments. The Coalition was required to conduct a Groundwater Quality Assessment Report, Sediment Erosion Assessment Report, and to generically report information at the township level provided in grower reports. For more information see “Member Requirements” on the Sacramento Valley Water Quality Coalition webpage.
Management Plans and Practices
In waterbodies where surface water quality exceedances occur, the Coalition immediately engages the expertise of County Agricultural Commissioners and landowners to identify potential sources of the exceedance. This also triggers an aggressive process to conduct outreach and education to landowners about management practices that will improve and protect water quality. If there is a second exceedance, certain Management Plan obligations are triggered by the Water Board. The Coalition Management Plan elements describe a specific set of actions: source evaluation and management practices documentation, which are initiated by the Coalition and its subwatersheds to improve water quality.
The Coalition annually submits to the Water Board a Management Plan Progress Report, which provides an update on the status of the Coalition’s progress toward completion of Management Plans. The Management Plan provides information regarding achievement of the Management Plan performance goals and documents the results of source identification evaluations, evaluations needed to determine the effectiveness of the management practice implementation, and whether additional or different management practices need to be implemented. The Progress Reports and Source Evaluation Reports are available for review on the Sacramento Valley Water Quality Coalition website.
The Coalition is composed of more than 8,500 farmers and wetlands managers encompassing more than 1.3 million irrigated acres and supported by local farm bureaus, conservation organizations, resource conservation districts, County Agricultural Commissioner’s, and crop specialists with the University of California Cooperative Extension. The Coalition and its twelve sub-watershed groups have a Memorandum of Agreement that defines the respective roles and responsibilities of the Coalition and the sub-watershed groups. The Coalition also has a Memorandum of Agreement with the California Rice Commission to coordinate the respective water quality programs. The Coalition is continuing to pursue partnerships with municipalities in the region that are developing stormwater management plans and facing increasingly more stringent effluent limitations. See the Central Valley Clean Water Association.
Groundwater quality in the Sacramento Valley is generally excellent. (DWR Bulletin 118-2003) The Sacramento Valley is pursuing active groundwater quality management, which includes the protection of sustainable groundwater supplies. As the Water Board’s regulatory programs evolved to include groundwater quality, the Coalition has implemented foundational actions necessary to compile and characterize existing groundwater quality data, identify and prioritize areas to undertake special projects to improve groundwater quality and to implement a plan of action to improve groundwater quality in the region. A Groundwater Quality Assessment Report was completed and submitted to the Regional Water Board in 2016.