Last week, 27 growers throughout the Kaweah, Tule and Kings River Watershed and Water Quality Coalitions were issued letters from the State Water Board’s (SWB) Office of Enforcement. These letters identified each specific grower as a primary contributor to nitrate contamination within the aquifers in their areas. The letters also “recommend” that identified growers participate in a preliminary settlement hearing as a means of avoiding the hard handed regulatory enforcement that the growers would face otherwise. We have updated you previously on similar actions taken by the Office of Enforcement, specifically in the Salinas Valley where 17 growers were served identical letters due to their usage of nitrogen fertilizers and soil amendments to help produce the region’s crops.
The State Water Board is requiring that these growers provide temporary clean drinking water to the communities as well as begin the process of finding a long term source of clean and reliable drinking water for communities. The cost of long term sources for clean drinking water can be very costly, and so one avenue that the SWB is exploring is the development of a fertilizer tax. Fertilizer taxes have long been a target by the Governor’s office, with multiple attempts failing to pass in the legislature. The SWB is justifying the extortion of cited growers solely on studies that claim irrigated agriculture is the sole proprietor of nitrogen contamination within drinking water sources. The Association is monitoring this and is in discussions with some of the affected parties. Stay tuned.