The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Region 3) is responsible for regulating discharges from irrigated agricultural operations in all or parts of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Mateo counties. As opposed to permitting all operations individually, the Board has developed a program for such operations to follow; this is referred to the Ag Waiver. The Ag Waiver is intended to be a 5 year permit.
Irrigated agricultural operations contribute significantly to the pollution of our coastal waterways, so the Central Coast chapters worked to engage over the past two years of the five year effort to encourage a program that works to improve water quality in the region.
The 2012 Conditional Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements for Discharges from Irrigated Lands was adopted by the Regional Board on March 15, 2012. Through efforts led by Monterey Coastkeeper, Environmental Defense Center, and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, the waiver that was passed is now the strongest waiver in the state. Although the 2012 waiver does not include everything that our groups advocated for, this waiver does make headway from the 2004 waiver in a couple of areas:
-begins to address surface water toxicity
-begins to address surface water nutrients
-begins to address groundwater quality
-begins to address riparian habitat protection
We look forward to participating in future iterations of this permit process and continuing to advocate for water quality improvement.