Farmers and ranchers will now be required to monitor groundwater for contaminants, and the first samples must be taken within the next three months.

The requirement is the result of a new Conditional Waiver of Waste Discharge that also expanded reporting requirements for total nitrogen applied to farmers’ and ranchers’ lands.

Also known as the Agricultural Order, the new regulations were adopted March 8 by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and are designed to reduce the amount of pollutants entering creeks, rivers, ponds and lakes as well as groundwater by limiting runoff from agricultural operations

As the third Agricultural Order adopted in the Central Coast region, the new regulations are referred to as Ag Order 3.0 and will be in effect for only three years, rather than five years as the previous two orders are.

Ag Order 3.0 was designed to be an “interim order” to give the Regional Water Quality Control Board staff time to analyze and incorporate findings from the previous order, so it must be replaced by March 7, 2020, a board spokesman said.

The water board staff will soon provide more information about the new regulations, including an updated compliance calendar and information about workshop opportunities, the spokesman said.

In the meantime, growers must take two samples from the primary irrigation well located on each ranch and all domestic wells located on the assessor parcel numbers where the ranch is located.

The first sample must be drawn before the end of June, with the second sample drawn from September through December, by a qualified third party — a consultant, technician or person conducting cooperative monitoring on behalf of the grower.

As in Ag Order 2.0, laboratory analysis must be conducted by a state-certified laboratory that can coordinate with the grower to submit the sampling results electronically using the water board’s GeoTracker electronic deliverable format, or EDF.

More information about groundwater monitoring requirements is available in any of the Monitoring and Reporting Program documents on the water board’s website, Part 2 A and B, the spokesman said.

Groundwater monitoring guidance documents, including a list of qualified laboratories, will be posted in the Grower Workshops and Resources section of the website in the near future, he said.

All ranches that grow any crop with a high potential of loading nitrogen to groundwater must now report total nitrogen applied, the spokesman said.

Those “high risk” crops include beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, Chinese or Napa cabbage, collard, endive, kale, leeks, leaf and head lettuce, mustard, dry and green onions, spinach, strawberries, fruiting peppers and parsley.

If any of those crops is grown on a ranch, a report on total nitrogen applied is required for all crops grown on the ranch, the spokesman said.

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The first nitrogen report will be due March 1, 2018, and must include all crops harvested on the ranch during the 2017 calendar year.

Farmers will have to track all nitrogen applied to each crop from fertilizers, compost and other materials and the total volume of irrigation water applied to the ranch.

In addition, farmers must sample their irrigation water for nitrates and their soils for nitrogen and include the results in the report.

More information about reporting total nitrogen applied is available in the Monitoring and Reporting Program for Tier 2 and Tier 3 ranches on the website, Part 2C.

Nitrogen reporting instructions and forms are available in the Grower Workshops and Resources section of the website at www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralcoast/water_issues/programs/ag_waivers/index.shtml.

For more information, growers in the Santa Maria, Oso Flaco and Coastal watersheds can contact Monica Barricarte at 549-3881 or monica.barricarte@waterboards.ca.gov.

For more information on cooperative groundwater monitoring, contact Hector Hernandez at 542-4641 or hector.hernandez@waterboards.ca.gov, and for individual groundwater monitoring, contact Corey Walsh at 542-4781 or corey.walsh@waterboards.ca.gov.

Growers who need GeoTracker support should contact Kinwai Tai at 542-4628 or kinwai.tai@waterboards.ca.gov.

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