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Agriculture and Rural Lands Plan

Agricultural Water Quality Stewardship

The Central Coast of California abounds in natural resources. The region is home to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS), which protects one of the world's most diverse marine ecosystems. The watersheds that flow to the MBNMS, spanning 7,000 square miles and 6 counties, are also an important resource, supporting a diverse $5.6 billion dollar agricultural industry.

Farmers are up against a number of challenges to stay viable, comply with regulations, and protect natural resources. In response to these challenges, farmers and agencies on the Central Coast have formed the Agriculture Water Quality Alliance (AWQA).

AWQA is a unique regional partnership that brings together farmers, ranchers, technical service providers, researchers and resource conservation agencies to protect water quality in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary while maintaining the productivity of Central Coast farmlands through a voluntary stewardship approach. The AWQA collaborative approach is outlined in the "Agriculture and Rural Lands Action Plan" which was developed with broad stakeholder involvement and released in 1999. Central Coast Farm Bureaus played a strong leadership role in the development of this action plan.

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 leadership and participation of Central Coast farmers and ranchers is key to achieving our vision:

"Together we will protect and enhance water in the MBNMS and the adjacent watersheds while sustaining a world class production agriculture region through voluntary collaboration with managers of agricultural and rural lands."

To learn more about the Agriculture Water Quality Alliance, its projects, accomplishments, and priorities, please visit

You can also access the Agriculture and Rural Lands Action Plan and other AWQA planning documents here:

Additional Information

For more information on AWQA, the Agriculture and Rural Lands Plan, or updates on implementation, please contact:
Bridget Hoover
Water Quality Protection Program Coordinator
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
(831) 647-4217


Technical and Financial Assistance

Technical and Financial Assistance

AWQA partners provide technical and financial assistance for growers to implement practices (such as this native hedgerow) that protect water quality in the MBNMS. Photo credit: Israel Jonson

Collaborative Learning

Collaborative Learning

Large and small group collaborative learning (such as the Central Coast Rangeland Coalition pictured here) is central to fostering improved agricultural water stewardship. Photo credit: Lisa Lurie/MBNMS

Cooperative Watershed Planning

Cooperative Wathershed Planning

The MBNMS facilitates and supports cooperative watershed planning (such as the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, shown here) to address water quality issues that impact the Sanctuary. Photo credit: Lance Cheung/USDA

Farm, Food Safety & Conservation

Farm, Food Safety & Conservation
The MBNMS is working with agencies, conservationists, researchers, and professionals at all levels of the produce supply chain to support the co-management of food safety and water quality. The Farm, Food Safety & Conservation Network hosts collaborative forums (pictured here) where stakeholders tackle co-management challenges. Photo credit: Lisa Lurie/MBNMS


Reviewed: April 11, 2024
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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