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Report: Cleanup Nitrate Pollution With Fee on Fertilizer Sales

Feb 20, 2013

A map showing the initial study areas for a recent UC Davis study of nitrate pollution.
Credit CA Water Resources Control Board

The State Water Resources Control Board is recommending that California fund efforts to mitigate nitrate pollution through a statewide fee on fertilizer.

In a report to the Legislature, the board said that groundwater nitrate pollution in the Tulare Lake Basin and Salinas Valley is likely to get worse in the future, and a dedicated funding stream is needed to address the problem.

Agricultural fertilizer and confined animal facilities are considered some of the top sources of nitrate pollution.

The water board estimates that a fee of $100 to $180 per ton of nitrogen fertilizer would generate between $20 and $36 million a year.

The report also calls for local water quality boards to identify and prioritize action in high risk areas, and enhanced testing and tracking of water quality on private wells.

Nitrate pollution in groundwater can cause serious health problems for pregnant women and infants.