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Water Board Ag Order 4.0 FAQs and Links

February 23, 2022

What is the Water Board? 

The Central Coast Water Board regulates discharges from irrigated agricultural lands to protect surface water and groundwater using Order No. R3-2021-0040, General Waste Discharge Requirements for Discharges from Irrigated Lands (also known as the Agricultural Order), that applies to owners and operators of irrigated land used for commercial crop production. The Central Coast Water Board is focusing on priority water quality issues, such as pesticides and toxicity, nutrients, and sediments – especially nitrate impacts to drinking water sources. Staff is prioritizing efforts in the major agricultural areas of the region - the Salinas River, Santa Maria, and Pajaro River watersheds.


What is the Objective of Ag Order 4.0?

The objectives of this Order are:

  • Protect and restore beneficial uses and achieve water quality objectives specified in the Basin Plan for commercial irrigated agricultural areas in the central coast region by:
    • Minimizing nitrate discharges to groundwater,
    • Minimizing nutrient discharges to surface water,
    • Minimizing toxicity in surface water from pesticide1 discharges,
    • Protecting riparian and wetland habitat, and
    • Minimizing sediment discharges to surface water.
  •  Effectively track and quantify achievement of 5.a.i through 5.a.v over a specific, defined time schedule.
  • Comply with the State’s Policy for Implementation and Enforcement of the Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program (NPS Policy), the State Antidegradation Policy, relevant court decisions such as those pertaining to Coastkeeper et al lawsuits, the precedential language in the Eastern San Joaquin Watershed Agricultural Order, and other relevant statutes and water quality plans and policies, including total maximum daily loads in the central coast region.


Do small vineyard growers have to comply with the new Ag Order?

YES!!! There is no minimum acreage limit for growers selling grapes or wine from their property. This Order regulates both landowners and operators of commercial irrigated lands on or from which there are discharges of waste or activities that could affect the quality of any surface water or groundwater or result in the impairment of beneficial uses (Dischargers). Dischargers are responsible for complying with the conditions of this Order. Both the landowner and the operator of the irrigated agricultural land are Dischargers under this Order. The Central Coast Water Board will hold both the landowner and the operator liable for noncompliance with this Order, regardless of whether the landowner or the operator is the party to enroll under this Order.

For the purposes of this Order, irrigated lands producing commercial cropsare those operations that have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • The landowner or operator has obtained a pesticide use permit from a local County Agricultural Commissioner;
  • The crop is sold, including but not limited to 1) an industry cooperative, 2) a harvest crew/company, or 3) a direct marketing location, such as certified Farmers Markets;
  • The federal Department of Treasury Internal Revenue Service for 1040 Schedule F Profit or Loss from Farming is used to file federal taxes.


How does a grower enroll with the Water Board?

An elctronic notice of intent (eNOI) needs to be submitted through Geotracker, the waterboards online portal (linked below). There is no paper copy of the application currently available, online is the only way to remain compliant.


Is it too late to enroll? 

NO, enroll right away to avoid penalties


What exactly am I required to do to be compliant with new Ag Order 4.0?

Simply put: several things at various times including water quality testing of the primary ag well and all domestic wells, farm plans, and reporting of fertilizer applications.  The most abbreviated list currently available is the Ag Order 4.0 Compliance Calendar.  We recommend you print a copy and make notes on your calendar for the various deadlines.


Important Websites to be Familiar with to Comply with Ag Order 4.0

Central Coast Water Board Irrigated Lands Program:

Ag Order 4.0 Compliance Calendar:


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