Agriculture

Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program

California agriculture is extremely diverse and spans a wide array of growing conditions from northern to southern California. California's agriculture includes more than 400 commodities. The state produces nearly half of US-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables. Across the nation, US consumers regularly purchase crops produced in California. Many of the products are exported to markets worldwide

Water discharges from agricultural operations in California include irrigation runoff, flows from tile drains, and storm water runoff. These discharges can affect water quality by transporting pollutants, including pesticides, sediment, nutrients, salts (including selenium and boron), pathogens, and heavy metals, from cultivated fields into surface waters. Many surface water bodies are impaired because of pollutants from agricultural sources. Groundwater bodies have suffered pesticide, nitrate, and salt contamination.

To prevent agricultural discharges from impairing the waters that receive these discharges, the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) regulates discharges from irrigated agricultural lands. This is done by issuing waste discharge requirements (WDRs) or conditional waivers of WDRs (Orders) to growers. These Orders contain conditions requiring water quality monitoring of receiving waters and corrective actions when impairments are found. The number of acres of agricultural land enrolled in the ILRP is about six million acres. The number of growers enrolled is approximately 40,000.

For more information on the ILRP, view About the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program.

Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program across California

Region Year First Implemented Estimated Acres of Agriculture Primary Commodities
North Coast Region Pending 270,000 Grapes, lily bulbs, potatoes, alfalfa
San Francisco Bay Region 2018 53,000 Wine grapes
Central Coast Region 2003 439,000 Lettuce, celery, broccoli, cabbage, strawberries
Los Angeles Region 2005 96,000 Fruit, nuts, nursery stock, cut flowers, vegetables
Central Valley Region 2003 6,200,000 Almonds, rice, tomatoes, grapes
Lahontan Region Pending 220,000 Alfalfa, managed wetlands, grains, pistachios, wild rice
Colorado River Basin Region 2012 606,000 Alfalfa, citrus, winter vegetables, dates, leafy greens
Santa Ana Region 2016 46,000 Citrus, wheats, various
San Diego Region 2017 70,000 Nursery, cut flowers, avocado, citrus, nuts

Monthly Reports

The State Water Board releases monthly status reports on the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP). The monthly reports provide updated ILRP information. State Board updates are provided monthly while Regional Board updates are provided bi-monthly. To view the monthly reports, visit the ILRP monthly report webpage.

Fee Information

The State Water Board’s Division of Administrative Services’ Fee Branch is responsible for setting and collecting fees for the Water Quality Programs, which includes the agricultural program. The current fee schedule for this fiscal year can be found on the Fees webpage. If you have questions regarding Water Quality fees, please email FeeBranch@waterboards.ca.gov or call (916) 341-5247.

GeoTracker

GeoTracker is a database and geographic information system that provides online access to environmental data. It is the primary tool for tracking regulatory data for the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program. Water Boards staff use GeoTracker to view and manage data on drinking water sampling, management practices, and additional reported information. Most Regional Water Boards require growers to enroll in the program using an electronic Notice of Intent (eNOI) located on GeoTracker. GeoTracker can be accessed online.

Agricultural Water Quality Grants Program

The State Water Board’s Division of Financial Assistance administers the implementation of the State Water Board’s financial assistance programs which includes loan and grant funding for the Agricultural Water Quality Grants Program. The Agricultural Water Quality Grants Program provides funding for projects that reduce or eliminate non-point source pollution discharge to surface waters from agricultural lands. For more information, call the Division of Financial Assistance at (916) 327-9978. Additional grant information is available through the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP) and Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP).

Impaired Water Bodies

Listing a water body as impaired in California is governed by the Water Quality Control Policy for developing California’s Clean Water Act Section 303(d) Listing Policy. The State and Regional Water Boards assess water quality data for California’s waters every two years to determine if they contain pollutants at levels that exceed protective water quality criteria and standards. This biennial assessment is required under Section 303(d) of the Federal Clean Water Act. To learn more about the impaired water bodies of California, visit the Water Quality Assessment Program webpage.

Other Informational Links

Announcements

On February 7, 2018, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted an order revising agricultural requirements for the Eastern San Joaquin River Watershed to reduce nitrate contamination of groundwater and surface water.

Following extensive public comment and expert input, the Order aims to protect communities that rely on groundwater for their drinking water. Nitrate contamination of drinking water is a widespread problem that poses serious public health risks. Nitrates can also have adverse impacts on surface water and aquatic ecosystems.
The Order also directs protections for surface water and groundwater quality from other chemicals, including fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides that may be found in agricultural discharges.

The Order revises waste discharge requirements for the Eastern San Joaquin River Watershed issued by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board in 2012. The watershed comprises an area of about one million acres of irrigated agriculture in the eastern San Joaquin Valley.

The Order also establishes a model for all regional water boards to follow in their subsequent orders to reduce pollutants from irrigated agriculture around the State. The Order directs the regional water boards to revise their agricultural orders by February 7, 2023 to incorporate testing of drinking water quality for on-farm wells and address the long-term goal of improving groundwater and surface water quality through monitoring and controlling agricultural practices, specifically nitrogen management.

To improve monitoring of nitrogen impacts, the Order directs the regional water boards to require the reporting of nitrogen application to crops from fertilizers, organic soil amendments, and in irrigation water as well as data on nitrogen removed when crops are harvested and taken from the fields.
To protect people presently using on-farm drinking water wells, the Order requires that growers monitor for nitrate levels in on-farm drinking water supply wells and notify the users of those wells if water is found to be above drinking water standards.

Many of the changes the Order incorporates are recommendations from the following: a nitrogen tracking task force and an agricultural expert panel convened as a result of legislation [Chapter 1 of the Second Extraordinary Session of 2008 (SBX2 1, Perata)]; a Board-adopted Report to the Legislature that made recommendations on how to address nitrates in drinking water, and the Board’s previous order regarding a petition of the waste discharge requirements for the Eastern San Joaquin River Watershed

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