The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s current Agricultural Order will expire March 14, 2017, and will be replaced with a revised version, and the draft ordinance is now available for public review and comments.

Officially designated the Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements for Discharges from Irrigated Lands, the current order was adopted by the board in 2012 to regulate the amount of pollutants in irrigation water flowing from agricultural lands.

Board members will consider adopting the updated version at its three-day meeting to be held in March in Watsonville.

Agriculture-related toxicity studies conducted on the Central Coast since 1999 have found pesticides have severely impaired aquatic life in Central Coast streams, and fertilizers have harmed the quality of drinking water in local aquifers, according to water board officials.

The Ag Order is an effort to reduce such pollution and specifically targets nitrates from fertilizers and chlorpyrifos and diazinon from pesticides that pollute surface water bodies and aquifers.

Under the Ag Order, farmers and ranchers are required to ensure percolating irrigation and runoff from their lands does not cause water in creeks, rivers, lakes, reservoirs and aquifers to exceed state and federal standards.

Farmers and ranchers who are affected by the Ag Order must implement, update and improve their farming and management practices, monitor their irrigation water discharges and report the results to the water board.

Those who fail to implement improvements or meet water quality standards may be subject to increasing enforcement actions, including fines.

To reduce costs and increase efficiency, farmers can participate in local or regional cooperative water quality protection and treatment programs.

A draft of the revised Agricultural Order is available for review at www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralcoast under the “Announcements” tab.

Those without internet access can obtain copies of the documents by calling Chris Rose, irrigated lands regulatory program manager, at 805-542-4770 or writing to or visiting the Regional Water Quality Control Board office at 895 Aerovista Place, Suite 101, San Luis Obispo CA 93401

Rose can also be reached at chris.rose@waterboards.ca.gov.

Written comments about the draft order must be received by the board no later than 5 p.m. Jan. 3 to be included in the record, Rose said.

Comments can be mailed or delivered to the water board office as listed above or emailed to agnoi@waterboards.ca.gov.

The board will meet March 7 to 9 in the City Council Chambers on the fourth floor of the Watsonville Civic Center, 275 Main St., Watsonville, to consider adopting the Ag Order. The council chambers are accessible to people with disabilities.

Members of the public who attend will have an opportunity to summarize and supplement their written materials with oral presentations limited to three minutes each.

There will be no sworn testimony or cross-examination of participants, Rose said, but board members and staff may ask clarifying questions.

Spanish translation will be available for those providing oral comments.

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