This project focuses on maintaining (and improving where possible) critical elements of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board’s (Regional Board) Conditional Waiver for Discharges from Irrigated Lands (Ag Order), which is critical to improving the water quality of streams, rivers, and lakes throughout Ventura County and the Oxnard area. The Ag Order is the sole set of regulations designed to minimize non-point source pollution from over 2000 agricultural operations spanning approximately 93,500 acres throughout Ventura County.
The Ag Order was first adopted in 2005. Despite the program’s existence a large number of agricultural operations continue to pollute waterways and water quality standards are not currently being met. In the first ten years of its existence the Ag Order program was largely ineffective because it lacked firm deadlines and enforcement mechanisms. Without these elements to provide accountability, there is little incentive for farmers to participate and adequately invest in farm improvements, resulting in continued pollution.
In 2016, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper (SBCK) successfully advocated to improve the Ag Order to incorporate firm timelines and enforcement mechanisms. Many of the deadlines are now approaching and farmers throughout Ventura County will soon be required, for the first time in history, to test their runoff for pollutants and demonstrate that they are achieving water quality standards. The agricultural industry, however, is strongly opposed to these monitoring requirements, and the Los Angeles Regional Board is currently considering back-sliding to accommodate the industry through its upcoming update to the Ag Order program. The Regional Board plans to adopt an updated order by the end of 2023.
This project supports SBCK’s advocacy capacity to serve as the key environmental NGO stakeholder engaging to ensure that the renewed Ag Order remains effective in curbing agricultural pollution to Oxnard’s waterways.