What We Do: Questions and Answers Regarding the Cooperative Monitoring
What is the Regional Water Board’s Conditional Waiver?
In July 2004, the Central Coast Regional Water Board adopted a precedent setting order known as the
“Conditional Waiver of Waste Discharge requirements for Discharges from Irrigated Lands.” This order
obligates anyone within the Regional Board’s jurisdiction who applies water to irrigate commercial
crops to comply with the requirements of that order.
What does the Regional Water Board’s order require for water quality monitoring?
The Regional Board’s order requires growers to conduct water quality monitoring several times a year.
Significantly, the Regional Board provided growers with a choice, either conduct the monitoring
individually or participate in a cooperative monitoring program with other growers. Most growers
covered by this order will be participating in the cooperative monitoring program which allows the cost
for monitoring to be shared, resulting in much lower costs per grower for the performance of this
Why is a cooperative monitoring program necessary?
The Regional Water Board has determined that irrigated lands must be regulated to improve water
quality in rivers and streams. An element of the Conditional Waiver issued by the Regional Water Board
requires growers to monitor water quality. The Conditional Waiver provides growers with the option of
participating in a cooperative monitoring program with other growers or to conduct monitoring
individually. Growers may voluntarily elect to join the Cooperative Monitoring Program when registering
for coverage under the Conditional Waiver. This is done when the Notice of Intent is completed.
Participation in the Cooperative Monitoring Program provides much lower overall monitoring costs and
growers may voluntarily elect to join the cooperative monitoring program. Growers covered by the
Regional Water Board’s order must participate in the cooperative monitoring or perform their own
Why is cooperative monitoring preferable to doing my own monitoring?
Cooperative monitoring is an option that growers have. The alternative is for each grower or landowner
to conduct individual monitoring for the “discharges” from their own property. Water quality monitoring
is a requirement of the Regional Water Board’s order and must meet certain technical standards,
including the development of a set of protocols (known as a Quality Assurance Project Plan) which
details how sample collection and monitoring analyses are to be conducted. Preparation of the Quality
Assurance Project Plan is costly and must be approved by the Regional Water Board. Each monitoring
site represents a substantial cost for sample collection and analysis, perhaps as much as $8,000 per
year. By conducting a cooperative monitoring program the number of monitoring locations are far fewer
(as opposed to each and every location where irrigation is conducted). The result is a much more cost
Am I covered by the Conditional Waiver if I drip irrigate or there is no identifiable discharge from my
Yes, you are covered. The Conditional Waiver adopted by the Regional Water Board is very inclusive
and covers growers who drip irrigate. Even if there is no discernable runoff from irrigation, the Regional
Water Board’s order requires all growers who irrigate land for the commercial production of crops to be
covered. The Regional Water Board views irrigation tailwater discharges, discharges to sediment
basins, tailwater ponds and groundwater, as well as storm water discharges as potentially affecting
groundwater. As a result, even though irrigation water may percolate into groundwater and not result in
observable runoff, the grower is still covered by the Water Board’s order.
When does the cooperative monitoring program start?
The Regional Water Board’s requirement for cooperative monitoring set two phases for water quality
monitoring. Phase 1 began on January 1, 2005 for the Salinas and Santa Maria watersheds. Phase 2
monitoring in all other areas is scheduled to begin January 1, 2006.