Farm runoff _ slippery issue in California

The TribuneMay 6, 2011 

After 2 1⁄2 years of work and multiple public hearings, state water officials are still months away from adopting new rules intended to reduce polluted runoff from irrigated farmland.

State regulators have proposed sweeping new rules intended to reduce the amount of agriculture-related pollutants, primarily nitrates, from tainting streams and underground aquifers. They describe the pollution from farm runoff as well-documented, severe and widespread.

“The threat to rural homeowners from nitrates in domestic wells is the most important and challenging issue the water board and stakeholders are facing,” summarized a staff report to the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The rules would require farmers to monitor the amount of pollutants they are releasing and to reduce them through programs that curb fertilizer and pesticide use and create buffer zones between farms and creeks.

However, the board lacks a quorum to adopt any new regulations. Two members of the board have removed themselves from the vote because they farm irrigated land.

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