Ag Waiver and Irrigated Lands Monitoring Groups
The State Water Resources Control Board (the State Water Board), created by the California Legislature in 1967, is tasked with protecting the water quality of the waters for the State. Its mission, at the same time, is to ensure that the allocation of those same waters achieves the optimal balance of beneficial uses. The double authority of water allocation and water quality protection allows the State Water Board the ability to provide comprehensive protection for California’s waters.
There are nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards under the authority of the State Water Resources Control Board. These Regional Boards are tasked with developing and enforcing water quality objectives, as well as implementing plans that will best protect the beneficial uses of the State’s waters. Regional Boards are tasked with developing “Basin Plans” for their hydrologic areas, governing requirements and issuing waste discharge permits, taking enforcement actions against violators, and monitoring water quality.
The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (San Diego Regional Board) is responsible for San Diego County. The California Water Code states that anyone (be it a person, city, county, district or other entity) that discharges or proposes to discharge waste that could potentially impact waters for the State must submit a report of waste discharge. With appropriate conditions, the San Diego Regional Board may waive this report and subsequent waste dischargers, as was the case for agricultural and nursery operations in San Diego County.
The San Diego Regional Board, on October 10, 2007, adopted a Conditional Waiver for Discharges from Agricultural and Nursery Operations (otherwise known as the Ag Waiver). The Ag Waiver applies to discharges of plant crop residues to land, discharges of storm water runoff, application of amendments or mulches to soil, and discharges of irrigation return water. Any owner or operator of agricultural and nursery operations must apply for waste discharge requirements (WDRs) from the San Diego Regional Board, unless their operations can be enrolled in the Ag Waiver.
Operations can enroll in the Ag Waiver in one of three ways: they can either join a San Diego Regional Board recognized Monitoring Group; they can submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) and form a new Monitoring Group; or they can enroll as an individual by submitting a NOI. Two Monitoring Groups are active in San Diego County: The San Diego Region Irrigated Lands Group and North County Irrigated Lands Group.
At this time, staff from the San Diego Regional Board is developing General Waste Discharge Requirements for Discharges of Waste from Commercial Agricultural and Nursery Operations within the San Diego Region (known as the Ag Order). The Ag Order will specify water quality monitoring criteria and address potential impacts to surface water bodies.