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.
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 is aimed at protecting 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 many 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 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, starting in 2019, 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. This provision will come into effect if there are no statewide programs requiring the testing of domestic wells by January 1, 2019.
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 recommendation on how to address nitrates in drinking water, and the Board’s previous order from 2013 regarding a petition of the Central Coast Regional Water Board’s agricultural regulatory program.
Nitrate-SBX2 1 Expert Panel
- Agricultural Expert Panel Public Meetings and Solicitation of Public Comments
The State Water Resources Control Board Chapter 1 of the Second Extraordinary Session of 2008 (SBX2 1, Perata) Report to the Legislature-Recommendation 14 Expert Panel Public Meetings:
- Expert Panel Questions: English | en Español
- May 5-6, 2014: Expert Panel Public Meeting #1 (San Luis Obispo)
- May 7, 2014: Expert Panel Public Meeting #2 (Tulare)
- May 9, 2014: Expert Panel Public Meeting #3 (Sacramento)
- June 9, 2014: Expert Panel Meeting #4 (San Luis Obispo)
- June 23, 2014: Expert Panel Meeting #5 (San Luis Obispo)
- July 1, 2014: Expert Panel Meeting #6 (San Luis Obispo)
- Agricultural Expert Panel Notice of Public Hearing and Opportunity for Public Comment
- Agricultural Expert Panel Draft Report to the State Water Board
- More Info: Irrigation Training and Research Center Expert Panel Website
- July 18, 2014: Expert Panel Public Meeting #7 (Sacramento)
- July 28, 2014: Advisory Committee Meeting (Sacramento)
- August 20, 2014: Expert Panel Meeting #8 (San Luis Obispo)
- Expert Panel Questions 3, 4, & 11
- Nitrate-SBX2 1 Advisory Committee Kick-off Meeting - March 10, 2014
- Nitrate-SBX2 1 Expert Panel Nominations and Formation of an Advisory Committee
Soliciting nominations for an Expert Panel and announcing the formation and meeting of an Advisory Committee. These actions are in fulfillment of Recommendation 14 of Chapter 1 of the Second Extraordinary Session of 2008 (SBX 2 1, Perata) Report to the Legislature - Recommendation 14.
- Public Notice - Deadline to receive public comments is March 7, 2014 (Noon)
- Questions on this topic can be directed to:
- Johnny Gonzales at (916) 341-5510 or email: Johnny.Gonzales@waterboards.ca.gov
About the Program
- About the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (Ag Waivers)
- Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) Monthly Report
The State Water Board is pleased to provide a link to the public to review monthly status reports on the ILRP. The monthly reports will provide updated ILRP information. The first monthly report will be on the Central Valley Water Boards program. Alternate monthly reports will be on the other Regional Board ILRPs.
- Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP)
FREP was established in 1990 through a legislative action to provide funding for research and education regarding the use and handling of fertilizing material, including, but not limited to, any environmental effects. The program is part of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Division of Inspection Services, within the Feed, Fertilizer, and Livestock Drugs Regulatory Services branch.
- 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. See a map of water bodies (click on the Map tab) that have been identified as impaired by agricultural related pollutants such as pesticides or nutrients.
- Monitoring Data Reports
The monitoring information provided below provides a general understanding of the baseline water quality conditions in many Central Coast, Los Angeles, and Central Valley areas of irrigated agriculture.
- Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
- Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board
- Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board
- Fee Information
The Division of Administrative Services - Fee Branch, is responsible for setting and collecting fees for the Water Quality Program, which includes all agricultural regulatory programs (Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program) . If you have questions regarding Water Quality Fees, please email FeeBranch@waterboards.ca.gov or phone (916) 341-5247.
- Agricultural Water Quality Grants Program
The Division of Financial Assistance administers the implementation of the State Water Resources Control 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.
Other Agricultural Information Links
- Nonpoint Source Management Measures
- California Bioresources Alliance Symposium 2013: Symposium | Agenda
- 6th Annual Farm Food Safety & Conservation Network Symposium - August 21, 2013
- Agricultural Water Quality Grant Program
- Sacramento River Watershed Program
- Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP)
- Western Integrated Pest Management Center
- UC Integrated Pest Management Program
- Pesticide Use Reporting Workgroup
- UC Agricultural Geographic Information System
- Farm Water Quality Planning Program - Short Courses
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