UC Davis nitrate report prompts calls for action
March 13, 2012
• Central Valley politicians make promises
• ‘It’s finally time to start finding solutions to the water quality problems’
A report Tuesday from scientists at the University of California, Davis, about nitrate contamination of ground water in the Tulare basin in the southern San Joaquin Valley and in the Salinas area have prompted some state lawmakers to call for action to fix the problems.
“Our neighbors have been demanding access to clean, safe water for many years. This report tells us that it’s finally time to start finding solutions to the water quality problems plaguing our rural communities,” says Assemblyman Henry Perea, whose district includes many rural communities that are having to cope with nitrates in their water supplies.
“Collaborating with our rural communities to come up with workable solutions is at the top of my list and over the coming weeks I will unveil legislation to ease the burden they’ve been carrying for decades,” he says.
State Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, in Stanislaus County, says farmers and ranchers are trying to offset the problem.
“I know the agricultural community is committed to the continued implementation of best management practices to prevent the contamination of groundwater supplies,” Mr. Cannella says. “Many of these techniques are new and should be included in the report’s review process. As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I look forward to working with the agricultural community and regulatory agencies to address the issues raised by this report.”
He also calls for more reservoir storage and for passage of a water bond that remains on the November ballot.
Not so sanguine about the efforts of farmers and ranchers if the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“The report found that agriculture is responsible for 96 percent of nitrogen pollution in groundwater. And while this statistic is specific to California, the problem is not,” says Noel Gurwick, senior scientist with UCS’s Food & Environment Program.
“Nitrogen is a key component of fertilizer. In agricultural regions across the country, nitrogen fertilizer ends up running off the fields, into streams and rivers, and leaching into groundwater. A national problem of this magnitude warrants a national solution.”
He says Congress is expected to renew the Farm Bill this year, which he sees as an opportunity to address nitrogen pollution at its source.