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Central Coast growers' trust in water quality regulatory process needs rebuilding

Abstract

Growing evidence of agricultural water pollution in California's Central Coast even after the implementation of tough water quality regulations has increased the pressure on regional stakeholders. Previous research has shown that collaborative relationships between growers and regulators can motivate growers to make management decisions that benefit the environment. However, informal evidence suggested trust might have been eroding between growers and the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (CCRWQCB, the regulator) since 2004, the year the first legislation went into effect. Using a survey conducted in 2015, interviews and in-depth document review, this study assesses growers' trust of and communication with other agricultural groups and water quality regulatory agencies, specifically CCRWQCB. Survey results were compared to results of the same survey sent out in 2006. Results corroborate other research — growers' trust of most regional agricultural groups was closely correlated with frequency of communication. However, growers' trust of CCRWQCB did not correspond to the relatively high contact frequency and had declined since 2006. The literature on rebuilding trust suggests ways forward for CCRWQCB.

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