The central coast of California abounds in natural resources. The region is home to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary – the largest national marine sanctuary in the United States and its rugged coastline and rolling valleys also support a diverse, multi-billion dollar agricultural industry that produces hundreds of crops. Agriculture and the health of the Sanctuary are directly linked by the land to sea boundary and the water, which flows from the local watersheds, over agricultural fields and urban areas, and out to sea.
The Monterey Bay Sanctuary Foundation (MBSF) supports several programs related to the water quality of the Sanctuary and its surrounding watersheds. Recognizing tat the combined efforts of multiple groups can often be more influential than any single group, the MBSF works to facilitate collaboration, identify and cultivate unique partnerships, and secure funding opportunities.
Improving water quality of the surrounding watersheds is key to preserving and protecting all Sanctuary resources. Recognizing this, federal, state, and local agencies, public and private groups have been working together with cities, harbors, businesses, and the agriculture community for over a decade on the innovative ecosystem-based Water Quality Protection Program (WQPP). The WQPP works at addressing a wide range of water quality and watershed issues including urban and agricultural runoff, marinas and boating activities, and point and non-point sources of pollution.
The Agriculture and Rural Lands Action Plan was developed in 1999 as the fourth action plan of the WQPP to address agricultural water quality issues related to the Sanctuary such as erosion control, nutrient runoff, and persistent pesticides. At the heart of the plan are 24 strategies, intended to protect and enhance the quality of water that drains into the Sanctuary while sustaining the economic viability of agriculture. This collaboration between environmental organizations, agencies and the agricultural industry is unique.
Directing the progress on each strategy is an Agriculture Water Quality Alliance (AWQA), comprised of representatives from the Sanctuary, the Coalition, Natural Resources Conservation Service, the local Resource Conservation Districts, and University of California Cooperative Extension. Since 1999, AWQA partners have worked together to reduce the runoff of sediments, nutrients, and pesticides from agricultural and rural lands through education and outreach, technical and financial assistance, research and monitoring, permit streamlining, and watershed coordination.
The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Citizen Watershed Monitoring Network arose out of the Sanctuary’s objective of establishing comprehensive monitoring of the health of the Sanctuary and its watersheds. The Network is a consortium of around 20 monitoring groups that monitor the health of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary watershed. Since its establishment in 1997 it has gained both regional and national recognition for helping to create long-term, volunteer-based water quality and watershed monitoring programs within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and its accompanying watersheds.
The citizen monitoring programs offer a valuable, cost-effective way to expand the monitoring of Sanctuary waters and watersheds; evaluate the success of restoration, cleanup and pollution prevention measures; and build citizen stewardship of local waters and watersheds. Citizen data also can be used for water quality classification, watershed planning, non-point assessment, and education. The Network offers annual trainings, establishes sampling protocols, lends equipment and provides a centralized database access for the existing volunteer groups in that region. Citizen monitors within these watersheds perform an invaluable service to their community and the environment in which they live.
Funding for this program has come from the State Water Resources Control Board, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Coastal Commission, the City of Pacific Grove, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and Monterey Bay Sanctuary Foundation.
Eighteen organizations in the Monterey County area have recently come together to create a new "region", the Greater Monterey County integrated regional water management region (IRWM), for the purposes of IRWM) planning and project implementation. These entities include government agencies, nonprofit organizations, educational organizations, water service districts, private water companies, and organizations representing agricultural, environmental, and community interests.
The goal of this integrated regional water management planning effort is to create a comprehensive, integrated regional water management plan (IRWMP) for the Greater Monterey County region. Through this integrated regional water management planning effort, we hope to:
- improve coordination of public, private, and non-profit agency programs;
- identify and implement collaborative programs that may be beyond the scope or capability of individual entities, but which would be of mutual benefit if implemented in a cooperative manner; and
- foster coordination, collaboration and communication between stakeholders and other interested parties, to achieve greater efficiencies, enhance public services, and build public support for vital projects.
The Greater Monterey County region includes all of the Salinas River watershed north of the San Luis Obispo County line (encompassing a small portion of San Benito County where the Salinas River watershed extends outside of Monterey County), and includes the entirety of Monterey County exclusive of the Pajaro River Watershed IRWM region (which covers the Pajaro River watershed) and Monterey Peninsula, Carmel Bay, and South Monterey Bay IRWM region (which covers all of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District jurisdiction, plus all of the Carmel River and San Jose Creek watersheds, plus all of the Seaside Groundwater Basin) established under Proposition 50.