A dreaded time has arrived for some farmers in the San Joaquin Valley — enforcement of the state’s new underground water quality regulations.
Thousands of farmers north of the San Joaquin River will be the first in the Valley to experience it. Farmers on 1.1 million acres in Madera, Merced and Stanislaus counties are being told to sign up for it.
This campaign does not yet include farmers in Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern counties, but the enforcement will come to their land in the next year or so, according to the state.
The program is necessary, say environmentalists and activists for rural towns with drinking water wells in farm country. They say water needs to be protected fertilizers, pesticides and other possible threats.
Rural Valley towns have some of the most fouled water in the state.
Farmers fear extra costs of this new program. They’ve had a decade to worry about it as the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board prepared the rules and enforcement.
To help farmers, ease the cost and organize the regulation, state leaders have allowed coalitions to represent broad areas. The East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition will represent the Madera, Merced and Stanislaus counties, according to the regional board.
The coalition has about 2,500 members, but there are several thousand more farmers who are not part of the group yet. If they sign up by May 14, their costs will be $50 for annual dues and a $4 per acre for water sampling and expertise in the paperwork the state requires.
The costs probably will be different for other coalitions in the Valley, depending on the need for monitoring, evaluation and cleanup.
But farmers who go it alone without coalitions will pay more, state leaders say. On their own, farmers will have to get individual permits from the state and pay for their own consultants to do the work.
For more information about the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition, call (209) 522-7278 or go to www.esjcoalition.org.