State Water Board Approves Central Valley Plan to Address Drinking Water Pollution

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Sacramento -- On a 3-1 vote specific to reducing a proposed timeline for stopping Central Valley water pollution from 45-years to 35-years, and a 4-0 vote on the entirety of the Amendment, the California State Water Board approved the proposed Central Valley Basin Plan Amendment. This Amendment will guide salt and nitrate management in around 40% of the state for decades. The condition of approval, via a resolution, directs the Central Valley Regional Water Board to make significant revisions to the Amendment to better protect communities from unsafe drinking water now and into the future. One of those changes requires dischargers to eventually stop pollution from nitrates. The State Water Board is tasking the Central Valley Regional Board with setting a more aggressive deadline for stopping pollution in the Central Valley; polluting industries will now have up to 35 years to end the ongoing pollution to impacted communities’ drinking water sources. 

“We appreciate the State Water Board’s direction that the Regional Board remove of some of the most troubling aspects of CV SALTS, as well as today’s change that reduced the maximum period to end nitrate pollution from 45 to 35 years,” said Michael Claiborne, Senior Attorney with Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. “However, this time frame still fails to address the urgency of communities and households struggling with nitrate pollution. We expect the Regional Water Board to require much faster compliance during the implementation of this plan. Central Valley communities depend on it.”

“Given that each year of continued pollution means higher human, environmental, and financial costs of cleanup, we are glad that the Board approved a proposal with a reduced timeline,” said Jennifer Clary, Water Program Manager for Clean Water Action. 

"We thank the State Water Board and the California Environmental Protection Agency for their leadership in helping to ensure we have a healthy and sustainable Central Valley,” said Debi Ores, senior attorney with Community Water Center. “While we still have a long way to go to securing safe and affordable drinking water for all residents throughout the Central Valley, requiring that nitrate pollution to our drinking water sources must stop within 35 years is a significant step forward. Looking forward, we intend to both partner with and also hold the State Water Board and Central Valley Regional Board accountable to protecting public health and our groundwater. Finally, we look forward to working with the Central Valley Regional Water Board ensure a fair implementation process with meaningful impacted community representation that better mirrors the entirety of the Central Valley community."

Nitrates can be deadly and a regulatory framework is necessary to address this problem. The Basin Plan Amendment is supposed to do just that. The amendment has three goals: provide safe drinking water to communities impacted by nitrate contamination, reduce and ultimately end nitrate pollution, and eventually clean up groundwater basins. The resolution proposed by State Water Board staff thankfully directs removal of some of the most troubling parts of CV-SALTS, and the shortened timeline for stopping pollution is a step in the right direction. 


Nina Foushee