Valley farmers prepare for new irrigation regulations

Valley farmers prepare for new irrigation regulations »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — In an effort to clean up California's drinking water supply, the state is issuing new regulations for agricultural irrigation.

The regulations will target users of the valley's vast irrigation lands by monitoring the chemicals that are contained in the water.

One of the impacts of fertilizing thousands of acres of farmland is that the water that irrigates the crops might carry contaminates into the ground, eventually making it to our drinking water supply.

To comply with the new regulations, farmers can join a water coalition or go at it alone. But, the cost is drastically different.

At 300 acres, a farmer who chooses the coalition would pay $5 an acre, including the state fee and monthly reporting that's due to the state.

A farmer choosing to go alone would have to pay $13.50 acre, which comes to about $4,000 for the fee. They would be responsible for hiring their own reporting service, which could total $10,000 for a total of $14,000 a year.

Shafter farmer Tom Frantz decided to comply by going the coalition route. He sees the regulation as an overall benefit for the community.

“I think it's a necessary program. We have to pay for the sins of the past. Our ground water is polluted," Frantz said.

Eric Averett, with the Kern Watershed Coalition, said although they do agree with the overall goal, the coalition is suing the state hoping to adjust the standards.

“We have been able to demonstrate that there is no direct correlation between irrigated agriculture and nitrate contamination," Averett said.

Farmers that don't comply face stiff penalties, ranging from $2,000 to $8,000.