Information & Background

Common Grower Questions

Why do I need to join the Association?

The Tulare Lake Basin General Order (Order R5-2013-0120) (General Order) requires any irrigated land having the potential to discharge to surface water or groundwater must comply with the requirements set forth by the Water Board.

The Water Board defines irrigated land as “land irrigated to produce crops or pasture used for commercial purposes including lands that are planted to commercial crops that are not yet marketable (e.g. vineyards and tree crops). Irrigated lands also include nurseries, and privately and publicly managed wetlands.”

Compliance with the General Order includes either membership in a Coalition/Association (Third-Party) or by obtaining coverage through the Water Board under an Individual Order.

The KBWQA (Association) provides the ability for growers to work together as a group and share resources to minimize redundant efforts to reduce overall costs. Some investigations and evaluations could require extensive expertise and costs that could be difficult for the average grower to complete on their own.

Who can join the Association?

Any irrigated land landowner or operator within the boundaries of the KBWQA can join and enroll parcels for regulatory coverage under the General Order. It is important that all irrigated parcels be covered by either the landowner or the operator; however, both do not need to enroll. The enrolling person will be designated as the “Member” and the contact person for compliance with the General Order for all associated parcels. The other associated entities (landowners and/or operators) will be responsible for compliance with the General Order as well, but will not be the primary contact person.

What parcels should not join the Association?

If you have parcels that are associated with another discharge order or conditional waiver issued by the Water Board, such as an existing dairy or food processor, those parcels should not be included in this Association.

New and modified dairies and feedlots currently do not have applicable waste discharge orders, but are expected to be issued in the near future. If a Report of Waste Discharge (RWD) has been filed with the Water Board the associated parcels do not need to be enrolled under the Member and included for coverage under the Association. However, the Member may choose to register those parcels now for coverage under the Association and wait for the other waste discharge orders to be issued.

As the enrollment process progresses, the Water Board will be issuing letters verifying that all parcels are being covered by the General Order or any other waste discharge orders. Once these letters are received by the Member, this would be time to clarify or confirm with the Water Board if any other parcels are covered by another waste discharge order.

What if I am currently a member of the Association under the previous program, how will I be notified to enroll in groundwater program?

The Association has notified members (March 2014) enrolled in the Conditional Waiver General Order (Conditional Waiver Surface Water Program) by letter which included a Notice of Confirmation (NOC) and Membership Application.

What if I am not a current member of the Association, how will I be notified?

The Water Board has reviewed the list of members enrolled under the Conditional Waiver and compared it against the agricultural parcel list for the Association’s coverage area to determine if the property owner warrants membership notification. The Water Board sent out notices to potential members that were not enrolled under the Conditional Waiver to join the Association or to pursue coverage under the Individual Order for their irrigated acres.

What happens if I don’t join? Is there another option?

Irrigated lands can be covered under an individual discharge permit. The fees charged by the Water Board under the Individual Order are significantly more than the fees charged by coalitions/associations. In addition to the Water Board administrative fees, professionals needed for preparation of evaluation reports, potential monitoring wells, and other regulatory requirements to implement the monitoring and reporting will add to this cost.

Failure to participate in the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program, either as a Member of a coalition/association or under the Individual Order will subject the landowner to administrative penalties by the Water Board of up to $1,000 per day pursuant to California Water Code section 13267.

What should I expect under the General Order?

The General Order covers discharges to both surface water and groundwater. Starting in 2015, Members will be required to prepare and submit a Farm Evaluation Plan, a Nutrient Management Plan, and, if applicable, a Sediment and Erosion Control Plan. The requirements for implementation, preparing, and submitting these plans vary depending on the size of the farming operations (above or below 60 total acres) and whether the parcels are located in a high- or low-vulnerability area.

Under the General Order, all Members will be required to submit a Farm Evaluation. The Association will provide all Members with a template for the plan. The plan will be submitted to the Association and the Member will maintain an on-farm copy for Water Board inspection, if requested.

The Association will summarize the information in the Farm Evaluations received from Members and submit a summary report to the Water Board. The summary report will not include Member-specific information.

If your lands fall within a high-vulnerability designated area, Members will be required to complete a certified Nutrient Management Plan and submit a summary to the Association. Again, the Association will provide all Members with a template for this plan. These plans focus on nitrogen-based fertilizers and compare the amount of applied nitrogen against the crop nitrogen requirements. The plan can be certified by a Certified Crop Advisor, Pest Control Advisor, Soil Scientist, or Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)-certified Technical Service Provider. Plans may also be self-certified under California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), the NRCS, or the UC Cooperative Extension.

For lands designated in a low-vulnerability area, Members with be required to complete but not submit the Nutrient Management Plan and maintain an on-farm copy for Water Board inspection, if requested. Nutrient Management Plans in low-vulnerability areas do not require certification.

The Association will summarize the information in the plans received from Members in the high-vulnerability areas and submit a summary report at a township level of detail to the Water Board. The summary report will not include parcel- or Member-specific information. All Nutrient Management Plans need to be kept on-farm and made available to Water Board staff if so requested.

If your lands are susceptible to erosion or sediment runoff, Members will be required to submit a Sediment and Erosion Control Plan. This plan outlines practices to be implemented to control erosion or sediment runoff during irrigation or storm events. The Association will notify the Member of any susceptible lands after the Association completes the Sediment Discharge and Erosion Assessment Report (SDEAR).

Am I a discharger?

The California Water Code has been interpreted to presume that if you irrigate crops and any irrigation or storm water leaves your property, the water could contain waste constituents which may affect downstream surface water and groundwater quality. When any surface water leaving your property contains farm waste, you are a "discharger" subject to regulation. Furthermore, the Water Board requires all irrigated land to be covered under the General Order. The Water Board defines irrigated land as “land irrigated to produce crops or pasture used for commercial purposes including lands that are planted to commercial crops that are not yet marketable (e.g. vineyards and tree crops). Irrigated lands also include nurseries, and privately and publicly managed wetlands.”

What is the Association?

A group of agricultural interests and growers formed to represent all “dischargers” who own or operate irrigated lands within the Kaweah Basin located in Tulare County. See the Association Boundaries (PDF).

What are the Association’s goals?

  • Facilitate regulatory compliance for the General Order for Association Members.
  • Continued advocacy for growers on water quality issues in various forums.
  • Develop and implement economical and scientifically valid water quality monitoring programs for surface water and groundwater in the region.

What work has the Association already completed?

  • Formed an organization with a Board of Directors.
  • Performed required surface water monitoring and reporting under the previous Conditional Waiver within the Kaweah and St. Johns watersheds.
  • Have challenged the General Order through applicable administrative and judicial processes on behalf of growers within the KBWQA boundary.
  • Filed an Application to Serve to the Water Board in October 2013 to be an approved Third Party under the new General Order, which was approved in February 2014.
  • Prepared and submitted a draft Farm Evaluation template.
  • Completed three public membership signup workshops in Tulare, Exeter and Visalia.
  • Successfully signed up approximately 1,300 members by the August 6, 2014 deadline.
  • Continue to submit the required quarterly surface water monitoring reports to the Water Board.
  • Submitted to the Water Board the KBWQA Surface Water Monitoring Plan, Quality Assurance Project Plan, Groundwater Quality Assessment Report outline.

Is joining a Third-Party Group mandatory?

No, joining a Third-Party Group such as the Kaweah Basin Water Quality Association is voluntary. However, compliance with the General Order is mandatory (i.e. a grower could comply as an individual).

Is the Third Party a branch of the Water Board?

No, the Kaweah Basin Water Quality Association is not a branch of the Water Board, just like your accountant is not a branch of the IRS. Third-party groups/coalitions represent growers, much like a co-op.

What if I don't join the Association?

You must file a Notice of Intent with the Water Board to obtain coverage under the General Order as an individual. The cost for coverage under the Water Board as an individual discharger can be considerable; approximately 10 times the cost to participate in the Association.

Who is responsible for making the Association successful?

The individual members of the Association are an integral part of the performance of the Association. Failure of the Association to meet deadlines, develop the proper monitoring programs, or work to correct water quality problems would mean that individual land owners would be responsible for fulfilling those requirements. While the Association signed the Application to Serve in order to obtain Water Board approval under the new General Order, it is Members who are ultimately responsible for participating in Association activities and pay their fair share of costs to carry out the program.

What other commitments are involved in joining the Association?

Land owner participants must agree to allow Water Board staff, upon reasonable notification, access onto their property to determine compliance with the conditions of the General Order. Individuals are free to withdraw from the Association at any time and obtain coverage under the Individual Order from the Water Board.

Why are the per acre fees different between the third-parties?

Each third-party is unique. The KBWQA fees were developed from a budget based on detailed cost analysis of the General Order. There are significant costs for a surface water program (12+ sites), and less acreage to spread the costs (200,000 acres) compared to third-parties with larger boundaries. In addition, the KBWQA has a different coverage period (January to December), and the Board of Directors did not want to come back twice in the same year for more fees. Any remaining funds will be carried over to the next fiscal year.

Do I report APN acres or irrigated acres?

Growers/landowners only need to report irrigated acres within each parcel. This does not include your house, shop, sheds, roads, etc. For example, if you have a 60 acre parcel, but only 55 acres are being irrigated, then you would only need to report 55 acres.

I won’t be irrigating a parcel in 2014. Do I sign-up and pay fees?

Yes, you can sign-up that parcel, but if you are not irrigating this year, you don’t have to pay the per acre fees; just pay the program management fee. However, if there is a chance of irrigating, you should also pay the acreage fee.

I just paid for two third-parties on the same parcel. Now what?

Ask for a refund or a returned check from the incorrect third-party.

I’m in the process of purchasing additional farmland, what do I do?

Notify the Water Board and the KBWQA to be sure the parcel is covered in the program for the coverage period. If it is not already signed up, then sign it up as soon as possible.

I received an invoice/notice for land I sold. Now what?

Notify the third-party and provide the third-party with the new owner’s contact information. If possible, please forward the documents to the new owner.

Can I join any Third-Party?

No, your parcel must be within the geographic boundary of the Third Party. You could have multiple parcels, each belonging to a different Third-Party and will have to join multiple third parties.

Will my data be kept confidential?

Water quality data is reported to the Water Board on a Township basis (36 square miles), and will not be reported by grower or parcel. Member contact information and APNs are required to be submitted to the Water Board. However, note that future reporting requirements could change.

Is this a tax or program on groundwater pumping?

No, the ILRP addresses water quality, not water supply or groundwater pumping.

Corn Field