Agriculture is the number one industry in Santa Barbara County. Unfortunately, agriculture is also a leading source of water pollution. When rain or irrigation water washes over agricultural fields, salts, nutrients, sediment, heavy metals and pesticides are mobilized and transported to the nearest waterbody. Most waterbodies located in or near areas influenced by agriculture have unsafe levels of nitrates and pesticides and excessive turbidity. Agricultural discharges pose significant risks and costs to public health, drinking water supplies, aquatic life, and valuable water resources.
Santa Barbara Channelkeeper is a lead advocate for more stringent regulations to reduce pollution from irrigated agricultural operations in our region. We served on the Agricultural Advisory Panel that developed the first regulatory program to control polluted agricultural runoff by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board in 2004. This program, commonly referred to as the “Ag Order,” has been updated and renewed every five years as required by state law, and Channelkeeper has continued to play a lead role in advocating
for more effective regulations.
Unfortunately, the agricultural industry has exerted its powerful influence to weaken the regulations, so the Ag Orders adopted by the Central Coast Regional Water Board have been largely ineffective in controlling agricultural pollution on the Central Coast. Not to be deterred, Channelkeeper joined forces with several other conservation, environmental justice and fishing groups to challenge the weak regulations in court. The court has consistently ruled in our favor, but the ag industry as repeatedly appealed and delayed the process. Our coalition continues to leverage advocacy and legal enforcement to secure stronger regulations to reduce pollution from agricultural operations on the Central Coast.
In addition to our advocacy on the Central Coast Ag Order, Channelkeeper has also worked to address agricultural pollution by successfully advocating for a strong Ag Order in the Ventura/Los Angeles region, serving on the Carpinteria Integrated Pest Management Advisory Committee, advocating for strong controls on nutrient pollution from agricultural operations through the Los Angeles Regional Water Board’s Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program to address excessive algae in the Ventura River, and conducting targeted watchdog monitoring to identify and eliminate illegal agricultural discharges.