Water Quality in Oak Rangelands
Water quality, especially nonpoint source pollution, is a major concernin the 7.5 million acres of oak woodlands in California. Over 80% of thesewoodlands are privately owned. Some of the major uses of oak woodlands arefor grazing, agriculture, firewood production, and recreation. Pollutantsof major concern in the oak woodlands include sediment, nutrients, pathogens,and temperature.
The California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Coast Region#3, recently released its preliminary 1998 triennial review priority list.Fifty-seven of the 128 priority tasks listed are to develop Total MaximumDaily Load (TMDL) standards for many of the streams and rivers in the centralcoast region of California. Alison Jones of the California Regional WaterQuality Control Board, Central Coast Region #3 says "A TMDL is a processof assessing conditions and describing problems, setting goals, proposingimplementation measures, developing a timeline for implementation, identifyingresponsible parties, and developing a monitoring strategy. The potentialexists for TMDLs to be developed by watershed groups of landowners as partof voluntary pollution control efforts."
In addition, Jones indicates that "To bring water bodies into compliancewith Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act, regulatory or voluntary measuresmay be initiated. If voluntary efforts ultimately can demonstrate improvementsin water quality, no need for regulatory involvement may be required. Inaddition, waterbodies may be removed from the 303(d) list if voluntary effortsdemonstrate that water quality standards are attained."
University of California Cooperative Extension and the USDA Natural ResourceConservation Service (NRCS) are very concerned about nonpoint source waterquality issues faced by ranchers and private landowners. Melvin George,Cooperative Extension Specialist at UC Davis, and Leonard Jolly, NRCS StateRange Conservationist at UC Davis, headed the development of the RangelandWater Quality Short Course. This short course, a voluntary, statewide programconducted by local UC Cooperative Extension and the NRCS personnel, helpslandowners to develop a plan for their own ranch that identifies and addresseswater quality issues. Each short course takes a minimum of 5, three-hoursessions, and a half-day field visit. Participants complete a water qualityassessment of their ranch, develop a ranch water quality draft plan, developa monitoring program for their ranch, and complete a Letter of Intent.
Landowners completing the course receive a certificate documenting theirtraining. To date, 19 short courses have been given statewide. As of theend of 1997, 450,000 acres have been placed under ranch plans throughoutthe state. Twenty additional short courses are planned for 1998. You cancontact your local UC Cooperative Extension Office, or USDA NRCS officeto obtain information about when and where these short courses will be held.
prepared and edited by Richard B. Standiford