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Ranchers Protect Water Quality on the Central Coast

The Issue

Over 3,500,000 acres of rangeland in San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties serve as watersheds to capture, store and release water for downstream uses. These rangelands provide forage for livestock grazing and their diverse plant communities serve as habitat for many species of wildlife. However, proper management of rangeland is needed to prevent surface water pollution.

What Has ANR Done?

Thirteen UCCE Ranch Water Quality Short Courses, which provide for self-determined development and implementation of water quality plans by rangeland owners, have been taught in Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties.

The Payoff

Ranchers implement water quality protection practices

During these short courses, 226 attendees from 160 ranches learned about nonpoint source pollution associated with ranching. Seventy-two of the ranches (45%) completed water quality plans covering 275,363 acres. Each plan included ranch goals, ranch management practices, water quality status, nonpoint source self-assessment, planned management practices and monitoring procedures.

The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Board, Region 3, identified the Short Course as its primary outreach method to the ranching community for working with non-point source pollution from rangelands. In addition, the RWQCB identified the short course as its primary reason for not issuing formal requirements to responsible parties for the Morro Bay Pathogen TMDL Implementation Plan that went into effect November 19, 2003.

The Farm Bureau in the Central Coast is creating watershed working groups for joint efforts on planning, implementing practices and monitoring water quality. The Farm Bureau relies on UCCE’s Ranch Water Quality Short Course (as well as the Farm Water Quality Short Course, which deals with irrigated farmlands) as its chief method of teaching water quality issues to watershed groups.

As a result of the short courses, 20 participants have entered into NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contracts and have implemented large water quality protection practices on rangelands.

Over 90% of participants who responded to a survey after taking the Ranch Water Quality Short Course have changed management practices, leading to improved water quality.


Supporting Unit:

San Luis Obispo County

Royce Larsen, UCCE Watershed / Natural Resource Advisor, 1734 Paso Robles Street, Paso Robles, CA 93446.
Phone: (805) 237-3101 Email:relarsen@ucdavis.edu.