Water directly benefits the Sacramento Valley's highly productive agriculture enterprises, which support the region's economy and communities; The Valley's water resources need to be managed to ensure that existing economic, social, and environmental systems endure indefinitely.
The connection between the economic sustainability of Sacramento agriculture and water quality is ingrained in the legacy of family farmers who settled the Sacramento Valley generations ago. So in 2003 it was a logical extension of the Northern California Water Association mission to partner with over 200 agricultural representatives, natural resource professionals, wetlands managers and local governments throughout the region to improve water quality for Northern California farms, cities and the environment. The mission of the Sacramento Valley Water Quality Coalition (Coalition) is to enhance and improve water quality in the Sacramento River, while sustaining the economic viability of agriculture, functional values of managed wetlands, and sources of safe drinking water.
The Coalition is composed of more than 8,600 farmers and wetlands managers encompassing more than 1.1 million irrigated acres and supported by local farm bureaus, resource conservation districts, County Agricultural Commissioners, and crop specialists with the University of California Cooperative Extension. It developed and submitted a Regional Plan for Action to the State Water Resources Control Board and the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Board) in June 2003. To implement the Regional Plan for Action and to meet the Water Board's Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP), the Coalition prepared and submitted its first Monitoring and Reporting Program Plan (MRPP) in April 2004 and it has been implementing this program.
To effectively implement the MRPP, the Coalition and 10 sub-watershed groups signed a Memorandum of Agreement that defines the respective roles and responsibilities of the sub-watershed groups, as well as the Northern California Water Association. Additionally, the Coalition signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the California Rice Commission to coordinate the respective programs in the Sacramento River Basin. Water districts and companies have encouraged landowners to join and have assisted in grower education through newsletters and information updates. The Coalition is continuing to pursue partnerships with municipalities and urban areas in the region that are developing stormwater management plans and facing increasingly more stringent effluent limitations.
In 2008, refinement of the 2004 MRPP allowed the Coalition to reevaluate the waterways, identify drainages with the highest and most inclusive agriculture, and use water quality data from those sites to represent other similar areas. Based on the surface water quality results collected, the Coalition proposed a much more focused monitoring program.
In December 2009, the Water Board approved a five year Coalition specific MRPP that focuses surface water quality monitoring and analysis on the pesticides, herbicides, nutrients and other agricultural products specifically used in a Coalition subwatershed. In 2011 the Coalition conducted broad based (Assessment) monitoring at its 21 monitoring sites. Additional sites identified through monitoring results that required management for a specific water quality parameter are also monitored.
As the ILRP requirements expand to include groundwater quality, the Coalition is proactively implementing foundational actions necessary to compile and characterize existing groundwater quality data, identify and prioritize areas to undertake special projects to improve groundwater quality and to implement a plan of action to improve groundwater quality.