Almond News: Fighting for Water; Spain Production Booming

Photo: University of California, Davis

Water – Fighting for every drop

Dan Morain of the Sacramento Bee reports that “the notion that water is for fightin’ extends to the stuff you flush” in drought parched California. While water recycling projects abound throughout the state, what to do with the treated water is becoming more and more of a contested issue.

According to Morain, farmers in the Del Puerto Water District on the west side the San Joaquin Valley found that out that the hard way this year. Growers in the area received none of the Central Valley Project water allocated to them this year and are unlikely to see any next year, regardless of what happens with El Nino. So when the city of Modesto offered 30,600 acre-feet a year of treated wastewater, everyone was more than willing to chip in for the $100 million in plumbing costs. Turns out, though, that things just aren’t that easy.

Westlands Water District, the largest ag water district in the nation, contended the deal. The wastewater that would be going to Del Puerto is usually dumped into the San Joaquin River after treatment, and Westlands argued that reallocating that water for other use would have adverse effects on fish, wildlife, and the environment downstream due to the reduced water flow of the river. Plus it would diminish Westland’s ability to divert water from the river.

According to Westlands executive director, “The reality is that the proposed project is a good project. We just didn’t want it to come at our expense.”

The issue was eventually settled outside of court, with Westlands agreeing to drop the protest if Del Puerto provides the district 500 acre-feet per year at $240 per acre-foot once the recycling project is complete. But this isn’t the only such fight going on in the state. Many areas are disputing the potential effects downstream if cities start repurposing treated wastewater that’s traditionally been dumped into creeks, streams, and rivers.

Morain also notes that “scarcity of and demand for water grows, competition will intensify, and not just for what goes down the drain.” Rain barrels prevent runoff and can also effect downstream river flow. A few here and there won’t make much different, but if hundreds of thousands start being used across the state…. Well, permits to use rain barrels are kind of a stretch, “But as any almond farmer in Fresno County knows, water is worth fighting for.”

Spain’s almond sector booming reports that Spain’s almond industry is booming, with millions of saplings sold in the last few years and a substantial waiting list to obtain material for new plantations. New almond orchards are popping up everywhere, both in areas traditionally devoted to the crop and ones it hasn’t been grown before, displacing other fruit trees. Main nurseries are already handling orders for 2007.

Production has also improved due to better irrigation and the introduction of new, higher yielding varieties better suited to cooler climates.

The primary driver behind the expansion has been continued high prices due to an imbalance of global supply and demand.

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