Various: almond acreage, leasing a water right, AP exam.

The 2015 California Almond Acreage Report is out.  Last year, while you were carrying your warm-up water out to the rose bushes, growers planted another sixty thousand acres of almonds.

California’s 2015 almond acreage is estimated at 1,110,000 acres, up 6 percent from the 2014 revised acreage of 1,050,000.

This acreage, planted in Drought Year Four, commits about 180,000 AF/year to those trees, a constant burden on groundwater basins and our political system for every one of the next twenty-five years.  Had the Brown administration banned new permanent crops in basins with declining groundwater levels, that demand might be in annual crops, flexible in times of high climate variability.

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I didn’t quite follow the transaction in this piece, by a guy who tried to go out and buy some water in the “water market”.  Far as I can tell, because he said he’d leave it in the river, the tribe leased it to him for $1/AF.  I did enjoy reading about the process.

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I am not loving what I see from senatorial candidate Sanchez.  I am looking forward to the water policy position papers from all the candidates, and hope that at least one of them will stake out some new ground.  Now that Ted Cruz has chosen Carly Fiorina as his running mate to help him in California, I can remind you guys that Fiorina’s water policies were weak sauce.

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Good luck to the students in Mr. Hollister’s Advanced Placement Environmental Science class!  We’re all rooting for you!  You are going to do great on the test next week.

 

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “Various: almond acreage, leasing a water right, AP exam.

  1. Richard Kelty

    “Had the Brown administration banned new permanent crops in basins with declining groundwater levels, that demand might be in annual crops, flexible in times of high climate variability.” I completely agree. We need some action from the top.
    In looking at your numbers, however. Isn’t a big chunk of this “new” acreage probably replacement? With a 20-25 year life, I would expect a replacement rate of 4-5%/year.
    It is interesting to see even this much planting during drought year four. Considering it will be five more years before the first almond is produced.

  2. onthepublicrecord

    Well, this is an increase over last year’s almond acreage, so the 60K acres is over and above replacement of almonds. It might be replacing vines or other crops, in which case it isn’t entirely new water demand.

    • Richard Kelty

      My comment was, at best, not well thought out. It didn’t deserve the polite response it received. I should have ended agreeing with your quote. I love your Blog.

    • onthepublicrecord

      I agreed with your takeaway, that it is interesting to see even this much planning at this point in the drought. I guess they can fit in one more planting before SGMA hits.

  3. Patricia Schifferle

    And this just in from the Bureau of Reclamation turns out the federal taxpayers have been paying for the Delta Water Export tunnels and how the federal contractors are shirking their duties under state law to pay for the WaterFix analysis, while the state contractors (read, ratepayers) are pouring money into the effort (over $60 million from MWD alone, to date).

  4. Leo Winternitz

    Could the Brown administration really “ban” what can or cannot be grown on private property? Even if it is in the public’s benefit and interest? I do not think the government has ever told private property owners what they can or cannot grow, even in previous droughts. Am I correct?

    • onthepublicrecord

      They do it now all the time. Growers can’t grow pot, opium poppies or qat, for public health reasons. Drought has an even tighter nexus to what is grown than public health.

      It wouldn’t be a global ban, just a ban in groundwater basins with declining gw levels. If you prefer, I could instead recommend banning irrigation of new permanent crops in basins with declining gw levels, on the grounds that it isn’t remotely reasonable to expect to be able to irrigate those for the next 25 years uninterrupted when your gw supply is already going away.

    • Leo Winternitz

      The difference being that it is not illegal to grow almonds.

    • onthepublicrecord

      That gets us into circular reasoning. Were it banned, it would be illegal to grow nuts under those conditions. When it isn’t banned, it isn’t. The parallel crop is marijuana. Not illegal in some circumstance (medical grow permit), illegal in others (no permit).

      Still, if a tighter nexus would help, the ban could focus on applying water, for permanent crops in gw basins that are becoming a non-permanent supply.

  5. John

    I love almonds, and prefer them to come from the USA. Let’s ban bad public policy instead of crops.

    • onthepublicrecord

      I bet we could satisfy American demand for almonds with a reasonable 300,000-400,000 acres of almond orchard, in the Sac Valley, where they don’t need as much applied water. It is providing the world’s supply of almonds that is overwhelming California’s water resources.

    • John

      Thanks for the reply, but that’s not how it works in these United States.
      Higher real estate prices in the Sac Valley, as well as the time it takes to establish new orchards will assure they stay right where they are at. Now,
      let’s get down to the business of providing water to the businesses who need it.

  6. Kristi Bevard

    We can talk about this topic all you like folks. The truth is our water management practices will not sustain our ecology in California. Our specific species of salmon keep whales alive in the ocean. Everything is linked. Placing California flora and fauna first on the list of future water management practices is paramount. As buildings continue to sprout, and yes, orchards of anything are dug in and planted, we are wasting our best resource this side of the sun. It is a broken system. Tunnels don’t create water — they create a vacuum.

    • John

      California sends more fresh water into the sea than they store for human consumption. Now I am all about feeding salmon dinners to the whales,
      but I am more interested in feeding my family. Let’s build the tunnel and put the emphasis back on mankind where it belongs.

  7. rhoronjeff@comcast.net

    Where would you suggest I go for a good set of subsidance contours covering the San Joaquin Valley? I’m thinking of something like total subsidance over the past 50 years. In addition, it would be interesting to see rate-of-subsidance contours averaged over something like the past 5 years. Any recommendations?. I came up with a goose egg when I searched the web.

    Thanks.

    Richard Horonjeff rhoronjeff@comcast.net

  8. onthepublicrecord

    It may be hard to find those because they may not exist. USGS does the most consistent work on this:

    http://ca.water.usgs.gov/land_subsidence/california-subsidence-resources.php

    http://ca.water.usgs.gov/projects/central-valley/index.html