The State Water Resources Control Board recently issued an order that overturned efforts to reduce nitrate fertilizer pollution discharges into groundwater supplies and surface waters in the Central Coast Region, which includes most of Santa Barbara County and all of San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties.
Nitrate contamination is widespread and increasing along the Central Coast. Nitrates can cause serious health problems including cancer, thyroid disease, and methemoglobinemia, or “blue baby syndrome.” Drinking water supplies and rivers in many communities of color in the Central Coast region are heavily contaminated.
In 2021, the Central Coast Regional Water Board approved a regulatory order (Ag Order 4.0) that would have established limits on nitrogen use among growers that excessively applied chemical nitrate fertilizers. This order would have improved accountability among growers by restricting how much nitrate could be put into the region’s waters. However, the State Board’s decision struck down these limits and required that the Regional Board approve a new order without enforceable limits.
The State Board also upheld a portion of the Regional Board’s Ag Order 4.0 that failed to take additional measures to establish more vegetated buffer areas between agricultural fields and nearby streams, rivers, and wetlands despite finding that these efforts would be important to protect water quality.
On October 27th, Channelkeeper joined a coalition of environmental organizations, Latino and farmworker community groups, and fishing organizations in filing a lawsuit against the Water Board, challenging their decisions on enforceable limits and buffer areas.