Merry Christmas – Dec 2015

Almonds Consume More Water Than California’s 39 Million Indoor Users Combined

– Seattle Times

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California Grows 80% of the World’s Almonds During Drought – Huge Export Crop Subsidized by Taxpayers

– It’s Chinatown Jake, all over again.

“Branded ‘the poster child of all things bad in water’ by one almond grower, the popular crop consumes more water than all the showering, dish washing and other indoor household water use of California’s 39 million people.

People around the world are eating over 1,000 percent more California almonds than they did just a decade ago, and last year almonds became the top export crop in the nation’s top agriculture state. China’s booming middle class is driving much of the demand.

That strong Asia market is producing up to 30 percent returns for investors, prompting agribusinesses to expand almond planting in the state by two-thirds in the past decade. The crop has come to be dominated by global corporations and investment funds.”

Read the Seattle Times coverage here @ Seattle Times

Clearly the Drought, Water and Who Benefits at the expense of the many are askew. Creating a demand for a high profit crop, funded by speculators, subsidized by the California taxpayer is a bad recipe for water resources. Mother Jones and others weigh in below, including the effects of increased groundwater pumping and its impact on subsidence in the Central Valley: 

 

California Goes Nuts

– MotherJones

A newly planted pistachio orchard near Ducor in California's Central Valley. Photo by Matt Black.
A newly planted pistachio orchard near Ducor in California’s Central Valley. Photo by Matt Black.

“Almond products—snack mixes, butters, milk—are flying off supermarket shelves. The value of the California almond market hit$4.8 billion in 2012—that’s triple the level of a decade earlier. Only dairy is worth more to the state than almonds and grapes. In fact, almonds, along with California-grown pistachios and walnuts, are becoming so lucrative that big investment funds, eager to get in on the boom, are snapping up land and dropping in trees.

There’s just one problem: Almond orchards require about a third more water per acre than grape vineyards. In fact, they’re one of California’s thirstiest crops. It takes a gallon of water to produce a single almond—more than three times the amount required for a grape and two and a half times as much for a strawberry. There’s more water embedded in just four almonds than there is in a full head of lettuce. But unlike row crops, which farmers can choose not to plant during dry spells, almond trees must be watered no matter what.”

–  So what happens when a drought strikes in the middle of massive speculation on almond crops? Are Californians obligated to subsidize almond growers who export the crop for profits? Must they make major life style and quality of life changes for the sake of private profit?

Read the rest of the story by Tom Philpott @ MotherJones

 

Related:

NASA: California Drought Causing Valley Land to Sink

– JPL

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“This study represents an unprecedented use of multiple satellites and aircraft to map subsidence in California and address a practical problem we’re all facing,” said JPL research scientist and report co-author Tom Farr. “We’re pleased to supply the California DWR with information they can use to better manage California’s groundwater. It’s like the old saying: ‘you can’t manage what you don’t measure’

Land near Corcoran in the Tulare basin sank 13 inches (33 centimeters) in just eight months — about 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) per month. One area in the Sacramento Valley was sinking approximately half-an-inch (1.3 centimeters) per month, faster than previous measurements.”

Read the full report here @ jpl.nasa.gov

 

Central Valley sinking fast in drought, NASA study shows

– SacBee

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“Portions of the San Joaquin Valley floor are sinking at an alarming rate as farmers pump ever more groundwater during California’s extended drought, according to a NASA study released Wednesday.

The report, generated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the state Department of Water Resources, sheds new light on the phenomenon known as subsidence.

While the land is sinking just a few inches a year, subsidence has been hastened by the drought, and the consequences can mushroom as the dry years pile up. Gravity-fed canal systems don’t function as well. Portions of the Delta-Mendota Canal, which brings water to much of the San Joaquin Valley, have buckled and had to be propped back up. In Firebaugh, west of Fresno, a motor-vehicle bridge has sunk so low it practically sits atop an irrigation canal.

“It is one of those long-term, slow and cumulative impacts,” said Jeanine Jones, interstate resources manager at the Department of Water Resources. “The thing we’re especially concerned about is the damage, long-term damage, to water infrastructure. Over time, that diminishes the ability to move water.”

Read more here @ SacBee