Santa Barbara County
University of California
Santa Barbara County

Water Quality Programs

Water quality

Agriculture uses 43% of the States stored water, much of it for irrigation. Eliminating impacts of agriculture on water quality is as critical to the future viability of agriculture as ensuring adequate water supplies. Potential water quality impacts include point-source pollution (such as discharge of waste water from confined animal feeding operations and dairies) and non point-source pollution (such as nutrient loading of drainage water and sediment and pesticide loading of winter runoff). Production practices must minimize contamination of ground water with nutrients or other agricultural chemicals.

Federal and State law (particularly the Federal Clean Water Act) and a series of ballot initiatives (notably Proposition 65) clearly indicate the concern of the people of California over water quality. The issue is routinely among the top concerns listed by producers. Regional Water Quality Control Boards are charged with implementing the requirements of the Clean Water Act. Regional Water Quality Control Boards regulate water quality through their Total Maximum Daily Load program and permit waiver programs for agricultural runoff. However, growers can avoid external regulation by managing their own land to meet water quality standards. Voluntary use of these management practices also is a positive opportunity for farmers to demonstrate environmental stewardship of their land.

University of California academics are working to provide the research-based information and the training tools required for implementation. Statewide ANR groups, such as the Water Quality Workgroup, the Water Resources Center, and the Salinity and Drainage taskforce provide vehicles for research and outreach activities to address this pressing issue. Agricultural Experiment Station faculty and Cooperative Extension specialists in relevant Departments on UC campuses are directly involved in research addressing the impact of agriculture on water quality.

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