San Diego Region’s Watershed Management Areas have a rich farming heritage, with productive agricultural land supporting citrus and avocado groves, greenhouses, and other commodities. Pollutants commonly associated with agricultural activities, such as sediment, fertilizers, pesticides, and organic waste, can degrade our waterways if not managed properly. When pollution enters rivers, lakes, and beaches, aquatic life can be harmed by reducing oxygen levels, blocking light, inhibiting photosynthesis, causing flooding, and promoting algae blooms. Water quality is a critical component of overall environmental quality, which is important for local economies and tourism, as well as may directly impact human health and other beneficial uses of our regional waters.
Compliance with the San Diego Region Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (or MS4) Permit is one of the main ways our region works together to protect water quality. As part of this regional MS4 permit, Copermittees inspect agricultural properties and provide educational resources to producers on how to implement best management practices (BMPs) including:
- Storing pollutants away from stormwater flows
- Reinforcing slopes to prevent erosion and sediment loss – this can include use of cover crop, mulch, fiber rolls, and hydroseeding
- Installing sediment catch basins and culverts that convey stormwater under farm roads to prevent farm road washouts
- Building healthy soils
- Practicing irrigation management to prevent irrigation water runoff
- Practicing nutrient management and integrated pest control to reduce the amount of nutrients and pesticides exposed to the environment
- Implementing vegetative buffers and habitat restoration activities
For a more exhaustive list of BMPs, you can review the list of Conservation Practices published by the United States Department of Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
BMP Technical and Financial Assistance
Technical assistance and financial support resources are available to agriculture operations from regional resource agencies designed to serve our agricultural community.
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) – (760) 745-2061
Mission Resource Conservation District (MRCD) – (760) 728-1332
University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) – (858) 822-7711 or via email
Copermittees also help connect farmers with resources and provide information on the Commercial Agriculture Regulatory Program. The Commercial Agriculture Regulatory Program is enforced by the San Diego Region 9 Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) and mandates all commercial agriculture operations to enroll either directly with the RWQCB, or through a third party irrigated lands group. Enrollment includes annual fees and development of site-specific water quality protection plans (WQPPs). WQPPs contain lists of the operation’s BMPs with associated detailed site maps that show property boundaries, growing areas, surface water flow directions, locations of drinking water and irrigation wells, and material and waste storage areas. Farmers are encouraged to contact the RWQCB or Irrigated Lands Group representatives for questions related to the Commercial Agriculture Regulatory Program.
Additional Resources for Agriculture Operations
USDA (2020) Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches, and Communities
UCCE 2021 Climate Action & Agriculture consolidated resources