A serious journalist would have reported on the wasteful baseline irrigation techniques or about the growth in nut grove acreage in the period. But, this factoid was repeated with no background reporting whatsoever. Let us now have a moment of silence to contemplate the slow death of serious environmental journalism in the MSM.
Then let us fight back against the PR flacks and help the inexperienced newbies that staff newsrooms around the country for peanuts. BTW, peanuts are not nuts and not the permanent tree crops I am railing against here.
The western states' water crisis did not have to be a crisis. Some have seen it coming and have warned against it. Mostly, we were ignored or called not very nice names. I'm a mother of a teenager and have pretty thick skin. So let me wade it.
Nut groves were being watered by the ancient practice of flood irrigation (USGS info page). Below, you can see the reflections of the almond trees on the surface of the water flooding the grove. They pump this much water out of the aquifer to make almond milk. Vegan cuisine is not without environmental harm.
|Flood irrigation of almond grove picture courtesy of Grist.org|
But, let's talk about the total evaporation loss budget. Water is lost at every step in the process: evaporation from the water surface, evaporation from the sprinklers, evaporation from the soil and evapotranspiration through the plants. It's one big clusterf*ck of evaporative water loss.
Moreover, these water-intensive crops are being grown in one of the world's driest regions with the highest potential evaporation.
|Global mean monthly potential evaporation via Arid Lands Research Sciences at U of Arizona.|
Now, you may ask, why would someone be planting ever more nut orchards in the extremely hot (> 100 F in the summer) desert basin of the San Joaquin valley or in the hot foothills of the Sierra Nevada (~3,000 feet elevation, 90 F in the summer)? Where do they get the water for this boondoggle?
The answer is that they rob the earth by dipping their straws/wells into ancient aquifers in a race to use it all up before someone else does.
There are many unsavory characters in the CA water wars. But, meet two of the biggest players, the Resnicks. They are the minds behind Pom and Fiji water, two health and environmental scams that deserve their own posts someday.
I hope this whets your appetite to parse some data on your own. May I suggest one of our fine datasets that contain potential evaporation fields, including the NOAA/Cires 20th Century Reanalysis, V2c.