By Ethan A. Huff *
However, almonds are quite resistant to drought, and they are growing in popularity around the world. They have overtaken peanuts to become America's consumer favorite seed, and nations like China are demanding it like never before. This has resulted in the conversion of more than one million hectares of the Central Valley into almond orchards, more than double the amount compared to 1996.
All of these additional orchards require water, and producers are getting it from anywhere, even from underground aquifers that take a long time to recover. This situation is putting enormous pressure on the general water supply of the state, which is about to disappear. In the end, there will be no water for anyone if water extraction continues relentlessly, experts warn.
"The people of the state of California are more or less destroying themselves in order to produce cheap almonds for the world," said David Zetland, an economics professor at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands university, quoted by The Guardian.
Almonds are big business, making up a $ 4.3 billion annual crop in California. They also don't grow well in many other places, as the "Golden State" has just the right combination of short, mild winters, warm springs, and long, dry summers. These are ideal conditions for almonds, and very few places in the world can match this climate.
Almond farmers pump more groundwater than last year
Entering its extreme third year, and with many areas exceptionally dry, California is still struggling in some areas to keep the water flowing. Many large cities have already imposed restrictions on its use, with fines for residents who use too much. Meanwhile, California farmers are freely drinking whatever water they need, without consequence.
If California's agricultural industry remained as diversified as it once was, this may be tolerable in these extreme conditions. After all, California has always been known as the "food basket" of the country, supplying more than half of the nation's supply of fresh produce. It is a very important industry, in other words, it provides tons of jobs and significant income for California residents.
But the fact of the matter is that much of the industry is now dominated by a few big players who reap massive profits from certain key industrial crops. These include grapes, cotton, alfalfa, and almonds. So while taxpayers are being slapped with fines for the use of water that technically belongs to them, to begin with, the large agricultural conglomerates are getting it as they want and for free.
"Producers must reimburse what they are taking," said Richard Howitt, co-author of a recent study that tacks water mismanagement, and does not necessarily blame farmers themselves, for the water crisis.
"If they are drinking more water, since they are always in droughts, then they should be making plans to pay back in the bountiful wet years. If you treat your groundwater the same way you treat your retirement account, then everything would be fine. "
In defense of this industry, the California Almond Council says that growers today are using about 33 percent less water to produce one pound of almonds than they were 20 years ago.
* Ethan A. Huff, writes for Natural News
The Epoch Times