The July 7 Stockton Record reported that this year’s almond crop is shaping up to be the largest ever. (California produces about 80 percent of the world’s supply.) One farmer actually expressed concern about an oversupply. Take a drive down I-5, and you’ll see new trees planted there on the west side.
Someone should pass this information along to the national media figures who reported last year that California almond trees were being ripped out because of endangered species protections.
Unfortunately, we all tend to remember what we heard first, even if it’s wrong.
Almond trees in the San Joaquin Valley require more acre feet of water per acre than cotton does, and they need it every year. (Four times as many almonds can be grown in the Sacramento Valley with the same amount of water. To understand why, see this document on agricultural water use efficiency.)
In addition to water for irrigation, many crops grown on the west side require water for leaching out salts from the soil prior to planting.
Recently, three environmental groups questioned a lawsuit by the Pacific Legal Foundation challenging endangered species protections for Delta smelt. Westlands has blamed these protections for reductions in irrigated acreage, although a report by California Water Research Associates shows that much of the acreage had already been fallowed.
According to a press release issued by the California Water Impact Network, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, and AquAlliance, 100,000 acres of land that Westlands claimed was fallowed as a result of Delta pumping restrictions was actually retired because of toxic salt and boron contamination of soils that affected agricultural production. (See the press release here.)
In Westlands Water District, the leaching and irrigation of water-intensive crops such as cotton and almonds has caused subsurface accumulation of saline water in the eastern part of the district, impairing over 200,000 acres so far and threatening another 100,000 acres, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.
Decades of over-irrigation of toxic, saline soils in Westlands has also contaminated much of the shallow and deep groundwater in the district, leaving large areas with no groundwater fit for drinking or irrigation.