Monday, April 18, 2016

It Takes a Village for Farmers to Meet Water Quality Rules

Sometimes, you wish you could stick your head in the sand and something unappetizing would go away.

Orvil McKinnis jokes that some farmers would love to do just that with ever-tightening water quality regulations. Bury your head and … poof it’s gone. “Sometimes I feel growers have that mindset with regulation,” he says.

But the reality is “the regulation for water quality is not going to go away. It’s only going to get tighter until things get much better. Growers have to understand they are regulated,” says McKinnis, program manager for the Westside San Joaquin River Watershed Coalition.

McKinnis brought that message to dozens of farmers attending a recent field day in Firebaugh. Made up of Westside water and irrigation districts, the coalition works with farmers to help them comply with water quality rules. There are seven other coalitions in the Central Valley covering 7 million irrigated acres.They were formed to administer the state’s Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program.

The Westside Coalition watershed encompasses an area of approximately 460,500 acres. About 4,000 landowners and 1,500 operators are within the watershed. The goal for farmers is to reduce detections of pesticides in the water or sediment moving off their fields.

McKinnis points out that pesticide use has tapered off since 2008. But in the past three years, “we have seen the curve go back up with insecticides being used. Growers really need to bewatching and utilize best management practices and work with their PCAs to be more mindful of water quality issues.”

McKinnis offers these tips to farmers:
·         * Follow the label on pesticides. “We are getting a lot of what we believe is drift and overspraying into creeks.”  Some growers may not realize there is a waterway within the spray zone that needs to be protected, he says.
·       *   Sedimentation and erosion. You’ve got to slow the velocity if you are furrowor flood irrigating.” Using a small dam or flow dissipation device can slow the water.

His final message: Improving water quality requires a commitment from every grower to implement better pesticide management practices on their farms.

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