California may become one of the first states to levy a fee on nitrogen fertilizer if the Legislature adopts the recommendation from the State Water Resources Control Board. Nitrates contaminate the drinking water of about 2.5 million Californians, mostly in agricultural communities.
Jonathan Bishop of the Water Board says that rural communities need money to treat contaminated water.
"Agriculture is a big part of the economic engine of California. But it comes with a cost," Bishop said. "When you apply fertilizer to the ground, some of it gets to the groundwater, and we also, as a society, need that clean water."
In a 64-page report
issued Wednesday (Feb. 20), the board suggested several different ways to raise revenue to pay for water-system improvements: a fee on nitrogen fertilizer, a "point of sale" fee on agricultural products, or a statewide water use fee.
See KQED's previous coverage of the nitrates issue: