Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
You are here: Home Projects San Francisco Bay Livestock and Land Program
Document Actions

San Francisco Bay Livestock and Land Program

Project URL link
Sponsoring Agency Ecology Action
Subregions ('North Bay', 'East Bay', 'South Bay', 'West Bay')
Counties Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara
Watershed Tributary
Public or private land? ('Public', 'Private')
Location (lat/lon)
Start Date as early as 1/1/2013
End Date 24 months after start date
Location Description The San Francisco Bay Area is indisputably an urbanized region, but its urban areas are ringed with rural properties, ranchlands, and parks. This ring of less dense development provides a transition to the more intensive farming landscapes of the inland valleys. Despite the reduced density, the rural properties, grazing lands, and livestock facilities in this transition zone contribute significantly to water quality impairments. The watersheds for the Napa River and its tributaries like Sonoma Creek support numerous grazing and livestock operations that have been identified as pollutant sources in the adopted sediment and pathogen TMDLs. The significance of these sources is confirmed in the recently adopted RWQCB 2 conditional waiver of waste discharge for grazing operations. In Contra Costa County, Marsh Creek and Kellogg Creek are 303d listed for sediments, pathogens and nutrients (Kellogg) with over 100 permitted equestrian facilities in those watersheds. Alameda Creek and San Francisquito Creek (San Mateo/Santa Clara) are 303d listed for sediments, evidencing similar issues in the east and south bay area. Further, a dozen watershed plans from around the bay identify equestrian and livestock operations as priorities in need of technical assistance. Due to the prevelance of program need, six SF Bay Area Resource Conservation Districts will collaborate to promote programming, deliver technical assistance, identify specific priority implementation sites, and design/implement BMPs on sites that will be come demonstration sites for the livestock community while protecting water quality in priority watersheds in Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, Napa, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties.

The project utilizes an incentives based approach to achieve the cultural change needed for livestock facilities to voluntarily adopt management measures that improve the healthy functioning of watersheds. Specific implementation projects will be completed in high priority areas identified in watershed plans. Water quality goals will be achieved through implementation projects, project design, technical assistance and recruitment and training.

Implemented by a collaboration of six Resource Conservation Districts and Ecology Action, the purpose of the project is to achieve immediate and lasting reductions in nutrient, sediment and pathogen pollution to surface and ground waters through implementation of BMPs on livestock facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area. The proposed project utilizes an incentives based approach to achieve the cultural change needed for livestock facilities to voluntarily adopt management measures that improve the healthy functioning of watersheds. Specific implementation projects will be completed in high priority areas identified by watershed plans. Water quality goals will be achieved through implementation projects, project design, technical assistance and recruitment and training.
Drinking Water Supply
Water Quality Improvement
Water Reuse/Recycling
Stormwater Improvements
Groundwater Benefits
Habitat Protection and Restoration
Flood Protection
The project primarily protects water quality through the reduction of nutrient, sediment and pathogens loads by reducing/eliminating the offsite transport of said pollutants from livestock facilities. Additionally, the project offers groundwater benefits in that rainwater catchment is one of the installed BMPs that conserves groundwater, and the proper management of manure reduces nitrate loading to shallow groundwater and infiltration sources. The implementation of bioswales and retention ponds increases the water quality and infiltration of stormwater runoff on livestock sites.
The project offers small, distributed opportunities to conserve water resources (small scale rainwater catchment for livestock watering and irrigation) as well as increased groundwater infiltration (bioswales and retention ponds for stormwater quality improvement).
Once priority areas are identified for water quality issues, the project works at the site specific level to plan appropriate water management on-site. The project does not integrate water management and land use at the community scale.
The project does not have relationships at this juncture with the local water utilities but could develop those to increase the water conservation BMP incentives (additional rebates, etc.) provided to participating landowners to increase the water supply/water conservation benefits of the program.
Ecology Action has, and will continue to, provide some staff time to explore collaborative ideas and project design.
Yes, but in a rural setting. Specific LID related BMPs include guttering roofs and establishing retention/infiltration areas for roof runoff or capturing runoff for irrigation or livestock watering reuse.

Part 2 - Detail

Specific goals and objectives of this project include:
Development of Implementation Sites – 15 to 22 priority sites (an estimated 135 to 500 total acres) will be selected among livestock facility applicants to implement water quality BMP projects. Specific BMPs implemented, and water quality improvements will vary based on site need and projects selected and will be designed by the Technical Advisory Committees (TAC) and consultants. 
These may include practice changes or infrastructure improvements. Example BMPs include:  use of vegetative swales and buffer strips, manure bunkers and other containment practices, installation of gutters, road and trail improvements, reestablishment of vegetation, and taking high use areas off line in winter. Implementation sites will achieve water quality protection and serve as classrooms, training opportunities and a permanent local resource for the community.  BMPs will be designed to meet NRCS service life standards.
For each of the BMPs implemented we target to reduce the exposure of 80% of the manure and 50% of the highly erodible soil, and to reduce overall potential loads by 30%. We propose to measure this pollutant reduction using the Load Modeling Tool
Designing Projects that Perform - Livestock community will work with a local TAC to develop the scope for implementation of water quality BMPs. Through site visits landowners will have one-on-one interaction with local water quality experts, including NRCS who can provide site assessment, detailed recommendations and design assistance.
Water Quality Site Planning - All program participants will receive training on how to identify water quality challenges on their sites and the assistance needed to complete a written site plan.  Existing Livestock and Land site plan templates will be adapted if needed for each county in the project drawing from such existing models as the Ranch Water Quality Plan, the NRCS Conservation Plan, County Erosion Control Plans, and the recommendations for site planning outlined in locally adopted TMDLs. All implementation project sites will be required to complete a site plan as part of their contract to receive funding for implementation projects.  At least 15 implementation site owners, and as many as 50 technical assistance recipients are anticipated to complete site plans during the course of this project.
Recruitment & Technical Assistance Programs - Provide technical training series on BMP implementation that also provides an opportunity to recruit livestock owners to participate in implementation site projects. Peer Leaders can also be recruited to lead and foster a peer-to-peer network of information transfer.  A target 185 livestock facility owners will receive 12 hours each of technical training on water quality protective BMPs, and additional 240 will receive 6 hours of training.

The Livestock and Land program has been achieving water quality improvements and changing the culture of the local small livestock communities on the Central Coast for over a decade. The program's website has a video overviewing the program, all of our Best Management Practices fact sheets, upcoming events and links to resources. Please enjoy your visit to

 Ecology Action has workplans, progress reports and final outcome reports for six grant funded Livestock and Land projects on the Central Coast that can be provided upon request. They outline the approach and results we would utilize and expect in bringing the program to the San Francisco Bay Area Resource Conservation District Collaboration.

Solano County: Many of the water quality problems that occur in both rural and urban settings are non-point source pollution derived.  The need for the Livestock and Land Program in Western Solano County is high for small landowners whose collective affect on the land is large.  Through our on-going “Welcome to the Watershed” program, Solano County RCD has identified many Western Solano County residents who are often new to the rural or rural/urban interface environment and to managing livestock facilities as well.  Many of these small operations are located directly next to waterways which receive their run-off.  This situation poses both a conservation problem and also an incredible opportunity to improve water quality and to further identify landowners and operators and work with them to address nutrient, sediment and pesticide loads.
 The Suisun Marsh Wetlands are 303d listed for nutrients. Erosive processes such as overgrazing, slope cultivation, urban construction and agriculture-induced stream bank erosion and are present throughout the Solano watersheds. A 1998 study (NRCS) found that some 73,000 cubic yards of sediment from upstream erosion sources are delivered to the Cache Slough watershed outlet to the Delta annually. Sedimentation and turbidity are also consistent water quality problems in Suisun (Laurel Marcus and Associates 2004) and Green Valley Creeks, where threatened steelhead populations have declined dramatically in recent decades (Leidy et al. 2005).  These sediment loads can be reduced via implementation of BMPs on livestock properties in the watershed.
Contra Costa County:  The Contra Costa Resource Conservation District (CCRCD) has been coordinating community Watershed Planning programs and conducting various watershed inventories throughout the county over the past 12 years.  Several of these programs have documented a need for a Livestock and Land program as detailed below.  The CCRCD also conducted a Pinole Creek Watershed Sediment Source Assessment (SFEI 2004) and retained the San Francisco Estuary Institute to gather, analyze and interpret data through field studies and research.  During the course of their studies, SFEI staff observed issues at several horse boarding facilities in the upper watershed in the Briones Agricultural Preserve which they believed were having an impact on water quality in the watershed.  However, the SFEI staff felt that management actions at these facilities would be successful in reducing surface erosion and sediment input, and input of animal wastes to the creek.  They stated that with additional resources and technical assistance, these facilities could be a sustainable activity within the watershed.
East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD – see Letters of Support) owns over 3000 acres in the middle of the Pinole Creek watershed, bordered by the city of Pinole on the downstream boundar and by private lands on the upstream boundary. Horse facilities have increased in number within the upper Pinole Creek watershed in recent years. EBMUD biological sureys have identified signs of eutrophication in Pinole Creek at the upper edge of its watershed, downstream of private horse facilities and agricultural operations.
Eutrophication is indicated by the excessive algal growth in this stretch of creek, which is otherwise well shaded by a healthy riparian zone. The Pinole Creek Watershed Source Assessment (SFEI, 2004) identified extensive erosion within the watershed as another significant issue in Pinole Creek.
Since horse keeping is allowed without special permit on agriculturally-zoned land in Contra Costa County or without specific limits on the number of horses allowable per acre, the Livestock and Land program would be very helpful in protecting water quality in the county. Specific plan citations include:
Alhambra Creek Watershed Plan, 2001.  Alhambra Creek Watershed Planning Group. Pages 122, 123
Watershed Goal #3, Protect and improve water quality.  Recommended Actions related to horse facilities: expand education to include horse facilities, assist in identifying financial aid for horsekeeping facilities owners for clean water improvements to facilities, support match-up programs between horse keepers and composters or gardeners needing manure.
Mount Diablo Creek Watershed Plan funded by the CALFED Watershed Program, SWRCB and the RWQCB 2.  Mount Diablo Creek Watershed Planning Group and the CCCRCD, 2007. Pages 41, 68.  “Many watershed residents value the rural character of the Mount Diablo area, including its heritage of ranching and horseback riding. …Some equestrians keep horses in their own back¬yards and face the challenge of keeping horse waste from polluting the creeks.”
Rangeland Management Goal:  “It is our goal to collaboratively work together to protect and enhance the rangeland landscape and adjacent grasslands and oak wood lands in the watershed on a voluntary basis.” 
Recommended Actions:  Educate the public and public land managers about beneficial grazing and ranching practices. Link local landowners and land managers to conservation planning assistance.
Pinole Creek Watershed Sediment Source Assessment.  A technical report of the Regional Watershed Program, San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI), Oakland, California, 2005.  Prepared in conjunction with the Contra Costa Resource Conservation District and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.  Pages 85, 86
Pinole Creek Watershed Vision Plan, a Local Community-Based Effort. Urban Creeks Council of California and Restoration Design Group, LLC., 2004. Pages 16, 20
Goal:  Improve the water quality of Pinole Creek where monitoring shows it is impaired.
Action related to horse facility management: Develop incentives for private landowners to address animal waste management problems.
Contra Costa County Public Works conducts stormwater inspections of livestock facilities and has confirmed the need for Livestock and Land related programming in their letter of support. Please see their Letter of Support and attached photo documentation of examples of significant pollution concerns.  
Alameda County:  Poor livestock management has been cited as a potential source of water pollution in most of Alameda County's rural and peri-urban watersheds, and many local landowners need help in improving the stewardship of their lands.  Protecting water quality downstream is key for anadromous fish and other wildlife, and for millions of Bay Area residents whose drinking water is supplied through local reservoirs. In the southern Alameda Creek watershed which traverses both Alameda and North Santa Clara County, livestock management is cited as a source of sediment, nutrients, and pathogens [Alameda Watershed Management Plan (2001), HACCP-Based Source Water Protection Program for the Southern Alameda Creek in Alameda and Santa Clara Counties, California (1998), Alameda Creek Watershed Grazing Resources Management Plan (1997)].  In the Arroyo Valle watershed, which drains to the Lake Del Valle Reservoir, the South Bay Aqueduct Watershed Protection Program Plan (2008) cites livestock grazing as a likely source of several contaminants of concern – pathogens, nutrients, total solids, and total organic carbon.  The Plan designates the Arroyo Valle as a High Priority Watershed Area.  All of these plans call for local livestock managers to be educated on and assisted with relevant water quality best management practices.  The San Lorenzo Creek Watershed Task Force Draft Recommendations (2010) also calls for increased education to livestock owners regarding stream protection and water quality best management practices.  The Arroyo de las Positas, proposed as a 303(d) impaired water body for nutrients, would also benefit from improved stewardship by the livestock operations along this creek and its tributaries.
Local horse stables, cattle ranches, and other livestock operations are eager for education and for the technical and financial assistance that can help them be good neighbors and meet regulatory goals and requirements in a voluntary manner.  ACRCD and NRCS have provided education and conservation planning assistance to equine facilities as requested by facility owners as they seek BMPs to help them meet their Alameda County Conditional Use Permit requirements.  Previous and ongoing workshop series conducted in Alameda County by or in conjunction with ACRCD/NRCS have been well-attended, and demand for cost-share opportunities has consistently exceeded the supply of funds.  Because California equine facilities have not been eligible for USDA Farm Bill conservation program funds, it is necessary to use grant funds to assist with the education, planning and BMP implementation that is needed to ensure that natural resources are protected and that such livestock facilities are sustainably managed.
North Santa Clara County: For years the Livestock and Land program on the Central Coast has seen workshop participation from livestock owners in North Santa Clara County, but has not been able to serve them with site assistance or implementation cost share assistance.  There are 47 interested parties registered on our program list serve from North Santa Clara County area.  The Coyote Watershed (the largest in the Santa Clara Basin) is identified by SCVURPPP as 29.6% rangeland.  Coyote Creek flows through unincorporated, predominately agricultural but urbanizing land between Morgan Hill and San Jose before finally reaching the Bay. In the Guadalupe Watershed, 15.5% of the area’s land use is rangeland.  The Guadalupe River discharges to the Lower South San Francisco Bay via Alviso Slough. 12.5% of the land use area in the Stevens Creek watershed is rangeland. The watershed of approximately 29 square miles, with headwaters originating in the Santa Cruz Mountains, drains into the Lower South San Francisco Bay.  San Francisquito Creek (proposed for 303d listing for sediment) and its tributaries drain a funnel-shaped area covering 47.5 square miles on the northwestern Santa Clara and southeastern San Mateo counties, finally draining into Lower South San Francisco Bay after leaving Searsville Dam.  Rangeland constitutes 15.0% of the land use area.  Lower Penitencia Watershed drains the western slopes of the Diablo Mountain Range on the east side of the Santa Clara Basin.   The Creek flows from the foothills of the Diablo Range, through undeveloped, unincorporated county land.  Rangeland constitutes 38.7% of Lower Penitencia Watershed.
The Napa River watershed supports numerous grazing and livestock operations that have been identified adopted sediment and pathogen TMDLs as pollutant sources, additionally confirmed in the recently passed RWQCB 2 conditional waiver of waste discharge (grazing operations). Marsh Creek and Kellogg Creek in Contra Costa County are 303d listed for sediments, pathogens and nutrients (Kellogg) with over 100 permitted equestrian facilities in those watersheds (see Map, Page 2). Alameda and San Francisquito Creek’s 303d listings evidence similar issues in the south bay area. Further, a dozen watershed plans from around the bay identify equestrian and livestock operations as priorities for receiving technical assistance (see Maps, page 4 for plans and listings).    The problem of pollution from livestock operations is widespread, and not easily solved. Barriers to managing livestock facilities in a way that are protective of water quality include: challenging site conditions, historical co-locating of livestock near creeks and streams, and lack of finances, time, and most importantly information about and peer support for protective site management practices. While NRCS can provide technical assistance and site improvement cost share for commodity-based operations via its EQUIP program, the hobbyist, rural property owner and equestrian facilities are unable to access these resources and thus generally remain unserved in terms of technical assistance, site assessment, awareness of available resources, and lack of assistance in changing to a culture where BMPs are implemented as a norm.     See the specific waterbodies and needs in the above question.

Without the cultural change in the Livestock community of the San Francisco Bay Area toward practices that are more protective of water quality, the pollution issues identified in local watershed plans (as cited above) will continue to occur.

i. Water Supply (conservation, recycled water, groundwater recharge, surface storage, etc.)

While the primary justification for the project is surface water protection, nitrate contamination compromises many shallow groundwater aquifers in the project area, and several project target waterbodies supply drinking water reservoirs. The project will protect groundwater and surface drinking water by reducing nitrate leaching by reducing the exposure of manure to rainfall. This benefit is an important link in promoting social change, as many owners of livestock facilities in these areas are also owners of private drinking water wells.

ii. Water Quality

The proposed project utilizes a Community-Based Social Marketing approach to achieve the cultural change needed for livestock facilities to voluntarily adopt management measures that are protective of water quality now and into the future.  Through technical and hands-on trainings, livestock owners and managers will gain a specific understanding of how their operations contribute to sediment, nutrient and pathogen pollution to surface and ground waters.   They will be assisted through the process of identifying solutions and planning for improved property management practices, including completing a written site plan, which will guide practices in the long run.  The construction of implementation sites will not only deliver immediate and lasting gains toward meeting water quality standards, but also further the understanding of BMP efficacy on livestock sites.  These sites will also serve the community as on the ground examples of BMPs in action and serve as classrooms, training opportunities and permanent local resources for the community.

This project is designed to be a source reduction and pollution prevention program.   For example we will both reduce the sources of and the transport of sediment off livestock facility sites.  While we cannot reduce the volume of manure, which is the source of nutrient and pathogen pollution targeted, we will reduce the volume of manure exposed to the elements and vulnerable to mobilization. We will also reduce the transport of those pollutants off site. These reductions will be achieved via proper storage and management, and drainage improvements on livestock facility sites. This strategy will be applied within all site assessment, planning and BMP recommendations, as well as promoted in trainings and via Peer Leader outreach efforts to create a pollution prevention culture among all livestock facility participants, and in turn, the larger community of livestock owners and borders

Our objective is to implement priority BMPS on at least 12 livestock facility Implementation Sites. We also target documenting as many as 106 additional BMPs implemented by technical training participants. For each of the BMPs implemented we target to reduce the exposure of 80% of the manure and 50% of the highly erodible soil, and to reduce overall potential loads by 30%. We propose to measure this pollutant reduction using the Livestock and Land Load Reduction Modeling Tool.

iii. Flood and Stormwater Management


iv. Resource Stewardship (watershed management, habitat protection and restoration, recreation, open space, etc.)

A key challenge on West Coast livestock facility sites is “dust in summer, mud in winter”.  When we reduce this source of sediment pollution from livestock impact areas and dirt roads through implementation of BMPs, we also decrease the dust problem, a localized air quality concern in livestock facility neighborhoods during the dry season.


(research in progress)
Increases Water Supply Reliability
Advances/ Expands Conjunctive Management of Multiple Water Supply Sources
Increases Water Use and/or Reuse Efficiency
Provides Additional Water Supply
Promotes Water Quality Protection
Reduces Water Demand
Advances/Expands Water Recycling
Promotes Urban Runoff Reuse
Addresses Sea Level Rise
Addresses other Anticipated Climate Change Impact (e.g. through water management system modifications)
Improves Flood Control (e.g. through wetlands restoration, management, protection)
Promotes Habitat Protection
Establishes Migration Corridors
Re-establishes River-Floodplain Hydrologic Continuity
Re-introduces Anadromous Fish Populations to Upper Watersheds
Enhances and Protects Upper Watershed Forests and Meadow Systems
Other (Please Describe)
Increases Water Use Efficiency or Promotes Energy-Efficient Water Demand Reduction
Improves Water System Energy Efficiency
Advances/Expands Water Recycling
Promotes Urban Runoff Reuse
Promotes Use of Renewable Energy Sources
Contributes to Carbon Sequestration (e.g. through vegetation growth)
Other (Please Describe)
$1,000,000(low) - $1,500,000(high)
Ecology Action, Resource Conservation Districts, Stormwater Programs and Water Utilities, Private Landowners, Volunteers
$0 (landowners maintain improvements)
BMPs installed to NRCS useful life specs for that BMP
Drought Preparedness
Use and Reuse Water More Efficiently
Climate Change Response Actions (Adaptation to Climate Change, Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Reduce Energy Consumption)
Expand Environmental Stewardship
Practice Integrated Flood Management
Protect Surface and Groundwater Quality
Improve Tribal Water and Natural Resources
Ensure Equitable Distribution of Benefits
Reduce Reliance on the Bay-Delta
Reduce Water Demand
Improved Operational Efficiency and Transfers
Increase Water Supply
Improve Water Quality
Improve Flood Management
Practice Resources Stewardship
Other Strategies (Please Describe)
Groundwater Management Plan
Urban Water Management Plan
Water Meter Requirements
Groundwater Monitoring Requirements
AB 1420 Compliance
BMP Compliance
CEQA Compliance
Water supply reliability, water conservation and water use efficiency
Stormwater capture, storage, clean-up, treatment, and management
Removal of invasive non-native species, the creation and enhancement of wetlands, and the acquisition, protection, and restoration of open space and watershed lands
Non-point source pollution reduction, management and monitoring
Groundwater recharge and management projects
Contaminant and salt removal through reclamation, desalting, and other treatment technologies and conveyance of reclaimed water for distribution to users
Water banking, exchange, reclamation and improvement of water quality
Planning and implementation of multipurpose flood management programs
Watershed protection and management
Drinking water treatment and distribution
Ecosystem and fisheries restoration and protection
Reduced Reliance on the Bay-Delta
Projects that directly address a critical water quality or supply issue in a DAC
Urban water suppliers implementing certain BMPs as on page 17 of Guidelines
Be designed to manage stormwater runoff to reduce flood damage (PRC §5096.827)
Be consistent with the applicable Regional Water Quality Control Plans (Basin Plans) (PRC §5096.827)
Not be a part of the State Plan of Flood Control (SPFC) (PRC §5096.827)
The outputs and outcome benefits from the 24 month project are outlined below. The longer term benefits and impacts are described on the previous page.
Output Indicators:
Ø  Conduct seventy five (75) hours of Technical Trainings throughout the regions to address BMP installation for manure management, erosion control strategies, site planning etc.
Ø  Have at least 185 people attend the Technical Trainings throughout the project region. 
Ø  Have at least 120 people attend the Half-Day Hands-On trainings throughout the project region
Ø  Conduct four (4) half-day Hands-On Technical Trainings. 
Ø  Receive at least 30 applications from livestock owners to become Implementation Sites.
Ø  Recruit 20 livestock owners to participate in the Peer Leader Program.
Ouctomes and Quantifiable Environmental Improvements
The benefit outcomes of the project are:
Ø  A high percentage of Technical Training and Half-Day Hands on Training attendees implement at least one (1) BMP on their property.
Ø  Have 30% of training recipients (50 persons) complete a written site plan for their property.
Ø  Contract with at least 15 and as many as 25 property owners to complete a writen site plan, implement priority BMPs on their property with cost-share, and to commit to sharing their work with others in the community for a minimum of five (5) years.
Ø  On the Implementation Sites where BMPs are installed, achieve an 80% reduction in manure sources and a 50% in erodible soil sources vulnerable to transport into surface waters from water diversion projects. (As measured by Load Reduction Modeling, See below)
Ø  Overall, where BMPs are installed achieve a 30% reduction in potential pollutant loads at Implementation Sites. (As measured by Load Reduction Modeling, See below)
Ø  All Peer Leaders will work to support the program by staffing table displays or supporting feed stores at a minimum of 10 events / locations throughout the grant cycle.
Ø NRCS and RCD staff are available and well equipped past the end of the grant term to assist owners, who will know how to access their services better after the grant project
Ø   The Livestock and Land program will be established in the SF Bay Area as a trustworthy credible program of the RCDs that landowners feel comfortable accessing for support.
Ø   Six bay area RCDs will have built a collaborative working relationship and communications database to jointly and efficiently continue to deliver technical assistance and support to livestock property owners to improve water quality on their properties.

Project team

Part 3 - Benefits

BAIRWMP_proj_template_section3_LivestockandLand.xlsx — ZIP archive, 173Kb