There are nine regional water quality control boards in the state charged with monitoring and mitigating water quality issues, but the most controversial right now is the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board which is proposing regulations on agriculture to prevent fertilizers, particularly nitrogen, from getting into surface and ground water.

The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board was formed in 1949 to regulate wastewater discharges from industrial and municipal treatment plants. The idea was to create a localboard that would make better decisions than a body located in Sacramento.  In 1969 the Porter Cologne Water Quality Act expanded the Regional Board’s authority to protect all ground and surface waters. This authority includes the ability to levee significant fines on polluters. The Board is made up of nine individuals from the six counties within the Board’s region, all appointed by the governor for 4-year terms. They are all volunteers, and are usually drawn from water quality groups, water supply agencies, local government, recreation, fish or wildlife agencies, among others.

The Water Quality Board’s proposal calls for 100 percent utilization of applied nitrogen in agriculture; because nutrient use for grapevines is low, vines efficiently utilize use only about 40 percent to 50 percent of the nitrogen applied. 50 pounds per acre per year is high. It is easy, therefore, to add too much fertilizer. This is not only economically wasteful, it can lead to problems such as excessive vine growth, decreased berry set, and vegetative character in the grapes, as well as delay the harvest. Further, each rootstock/scion combination will have a unique nutritional profile, making generalization impracticable.

The site was down when this post was written, however, normally information on the proposal and public comment should be available by visiting the Central Coast RWQCB website.


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