MEETING NOTES: North Kern Water District discusses nitrate compliance options

January 24, 2024
Sonia Lemus, freelance for SJV Water
by Sonia Lemus, freelance for SJV Water
CVP: Central Valley Project. CVC: Cross Valley Canal. KCWA SWP: Kern County Water Agency, State Water Project.
Sonia Lemus, freelance for SJV Water
Sonia Lemus, freelance for SJV Water

Share This: 

* “Meeting Notes” is a new feature focused on Kern County water districts, paid for by a grant from the James B. McClatchy Foundation. Please consider supporting SJV Water so we can continue this important coverage.

Meeting: North Kern Water Storage District board of directors.

Date: January 16, 2024

Agenda and board packet: CLICK HERE

Main Topic: Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program Central Valley Salinity Alternative for Long Term Sustainability (CV-SALTS), discussion only.

Background: Salt and nitrate levels have increased in groundwater. This is due to population increases, fertilizer on crop land and other industrial/municipal activities. 

Nitrates are a serious health concern for babies and pregnant women.

CV-SALTS was created in 2006 to fund studies to determine how best to regulate nitrate and salinity levels.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has subsequently established “management zones” in the San Joaquin Valley, paid for by nitrate polluters, to test wells and provide clean drinking water to residents who’s water contains high nitrate levels.

Report: Stephanie Hearn, consulting district engineer for North Kern Water Storage District informed the board that the nitrate control program notice to comply went out in December 2023 to landowners.

Landowners who received this notice have two pathways. Pathway A is to address nitrate levels on their own. Pathway B is to join the Kern Watershed Coalition Authority (KRWCA).

Hearn said that most landowners would likely choose pathway B because it is more expensive to address the problem on their own. Additionally there is greater liability because if there are any nitrate problems within a five-mile radius of a landowners’ discharge, the landowner could be liable for mitigation.

With pathway B, landowners will receive an annual invoice from KRWCA to cover costs of the studies CV-SALTS does for all members of the coalition.

Hearn gave a sample plan of what the water district will be doing across four years to help mitigate the nitrate groundwater levels.

Year one, is finding forms of mitigation for residents who exceed nitrate contamination levels in their water. That could include signing them up for a bottled water delivery service.

Year two, a preliminary zone management plan is submitted to the Water Quality Board that shows how the program will be administered over the next 20 years, and how nitrate groundwater levels will be mitigated.

Year three, studies are done to find the source of nitrate contamination. This research then is incorporated into the preliminary zone management plan along with mitigation measures.

Year four, would be labor efforts on mitigation. Hearn noted that there are no known sources of public funding to aid in the costs of mitigation.

One board member questioned why someone would choose pathway A. Hearn speculated that food processors may choose pathway A because they may think they aren’t contributing to nitrate contamination.

Another board member added that the district has two different areas in which it needs to comply: Agricultural sites and oilfield produced water that the district blends with other sources for irrigation.

How to attend: North Kern meets at 7 a.m. on the 3rd Tuesday of each month. You can join via teleconference calling (877) 567‐8582 using the Phone Conference ID: 944 706 059#

Sonia Lemus, freelance for SJV Water

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.


Receive the latest news

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter & Get Email Notifications

Enter your email address to receive INSTANT ALERTS of new articles and to be added to SJV Water’s WEEKLY NEWSLETTER