I have marked the almond acreage at the beginning and end of the 2006-2009 drought (700,000 acres at the beginning, 810,000 acres at the end). At the beginning of our current drought, almond acreage was 870,000 acres. In 2013, after two years of drought, it was up to 940,000 acres. It looks like the 2014 California Almond Acreage Report comes out at the end of April (here’s 2013). I will be excited to see a new total acreage. (Source)
Let’s make this all explicit. Since this drought began, almonds have expanded by 70,000 acres. That’s 280,000 acft/year of new water demand for a snack that will be exported. That water will come from groundwater or from other farmers. At the same time, the California EPA is literally telling urban users to take five minute cold showers. If there is a lot of new acreage in 2014 and 2015, it is going to be difficult for the Brown administration to stay friends with them.
A couple notes:
Not-having this new almond acreage would not mean wet water for cities. But it would mean less overdraft of San Joaquin Valley groundwater.
I should be explicit that I don’t love applying California’s water resources to alfalfa/silage for meat and dairy, nor wine grapes either. But I sense that most others are much more culturally attached to cheap meat and dairy, and also to wine, than they are to almonds. In my own life, I could readily accept all three (almonds, meat/dairy, wine) becoming rarer and more expensive.