CA Central Valley Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program: The Sacramento Valley Rice Growers Approach to Groundwater Quality Management
The California Rice Commission (CRC) is a statutory organization representing approximately 2,500 rice farmers who farm approximately 550,000 acres of Sacramento Valley rice fields. The CRC is an approved Coalition Group under the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board’s (RWQCB) Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program. This program aims at reducing impacts to surface water and groundwater from agricultural non-point source discharges, by requiring various planning and implementation actions by the Coalition Groups. Under this program, a rice-specific Waste Discharge Requirements Order (Order) was adopted in March 2014. The CRC has led pro-active measures to comply with this requirement, even before the final Order was approved. As such, a detailed rice-specific Groundwater Assessment Report (GAR) was developed ahead of the Order that describes the shallow groundwater quality conditions underlying rice fields and provided an analysis of potential impacts of rice agriculture to groundwater resources. The GAR was approved in July 2013 and included in the Order. Following this foundational assessment, several additional actions were taken to comply with the Order’s Monitoring and Reporting Program: development and implementation of a web-based Farm Evaluation Template to facilitate Growers’ farm practices input and reporting, establishment of a Groundwater Quality Trend Monitoring Workplan, and development of a Nitrogen Management Planning tool, also web-based.This pro-active approach taken by the CRC has allowed for a stream-lined rice-specific implementation of the ILRP requirements through negotiations with the RWQCB, and helped educate rice growers on upcoming regulatory requirements. Initial program investments and innovative approaches for compliance were developed that have both the grower in mind, and establish reporting and monitoring procedures in a simplified and collaborative fashion for the future. The purpose of this presentation is to provide a summary of the activities undertaken by the CRC over the last decade to help manage surface water and groundwater quality and reduce potential impacts from rice agriculture.