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Groundwater Rules Approved for Tulare Lake Basin

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board in September approved Waste Discharge Requirements (WDR) for 2.5 million acres of farmland in the Tulare Lake Basin area in Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern counties.

The new rules, virtually identical to those adopted in December 2012 for the Eastern San Joaquin River Watershed, include new management, monitoring and reporting requirements for agricultural surface water and groundwater discharges. This is the second of seven Central Valley Region WDRs for watershed coalitions in various stages of negotiation with the Regional Board. Next up for adoption is the Westside San Joaquin River watershed region.

“The timelines are slightly different for the south valley but the fundamentals of the program are much the same, and I expect the rules for the other coalitions to be virtually identical to what was adopted [for Tulare Lake Basin] and in our region,” said Parry Klassen, executive director of the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition.

All water quality coalition members will be required to complete farm evaluations, nitrogen management plans, and sediment and erosion control plans. Farm evaluations will be submitted to third-party coalitions, which will aggregate and submit the information to the Water Board on a township basis. Nitrogen reporting plans will also need to be completed annually, and growers in high-vulnerability areas will need to submit these plans to their coalitions as well.

One issue for the Tulare Lake Basin region south of the San Joaquin River down to Kern County is ensuring there are coalitions for growers to join. A number of watershed-based coalitions are currently being formed to cover growers in specific watersheds for Kern, Kaweah, Tule and Kings Rivers. For more information on Tulare Lake Basin coalition formation efforts in each of those regions, contact:

Rick Hoelzel, Kings River Water Quality Coalition — (559) 476-0539

Mark Larsen, Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District — (559) 747-5601

Dick Schafer, Tule Basin Water Quality Coalition — 559-627-2948

John Schaap, Kern River Watershed Coalition Authority — (559) 636-1166, ext. 504

Tim Ashlock, Buena Vista Water District — (661) 979-6182

Once the Regional Water Board accepts a coalition’s application to represent irrigated agriculture in a region, growers will have 180 days to apply to be part of the organization. Or, they can apply to fulfill Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program requirements as an individual farm, a more expensive and cumbersome option for compliance. Requirements for the individual option have already been adopted.

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