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Nurseries implement management practices to protect water quality

The Issue

The year 2004 was a crossroads for Ventura County agriculture. Stricter water quality regulations promised over the past decade were finally being implemented. Regulatory agencies were mandating changes that would greatly impact agriculture, especially the intensely managed nursery industry. There was much concern that the new regulations would drive Ventura County nurseries out of business or into other areas where regulations were not as restrictive. Another concern was that substantial capital would be required to comply with these regulations, especially for those nurseries where the best solution would be the construction of recycling and water capture systems.

What Has ANR Done?

Over the past three years, University of California Cooperative Extension researchers worked on a $2.6 million project funded by the State Water Resources Control Board to help Ventura and Los Angeles county nursery growers comply with the new regulations. We established a quarterly educational program. We assisted growers in the development of nursery plans for addressing water quality issues specific to their operations. We then implemented a cost-share program to make the changes. In addition, we evaluated the improvement, documenting the environmental benefits and the costs associated with the improvement.

The Payoff

Reduced runoff, water savings and increased irrigation uniformity

With recycling basins, it was possible to reduce water use by 136,000 gallons per year at a cost of between $4,000 and $18,000 per acre. Detention basins virtually stopped runoff at a cost of $9,000 to $16,000 per acre. Irrigation upgrade projects resulted in increased application uniformity of 10 to 50 percent at a cost of $2,000 to $9,000 per acre. In one case the grower saved an estimated 19,000 gallons per acre per irrigation-hour by retrofitting his irrigation system. These demonstration projects showed that improvements could be made at reasonable costs, resulting in significant water savings to growers, and also improving the environmental impacts of their operations.


Supporting Unit: Ventura County

Julie Newman, Environmental Horticulture Advisor, 805-645-1459, jpnewman@ucdavis.edu

Ben Faber, Soils/Water/Subtropical Crops Advisor, 805-645-1462, bafaber@ucdavis.edu

669 County Square Dr., Suite 100, Ventura,93003