Water source for almonds in California may run dry

California’s almond orchards have been thriving over the past decade and now provide an $11 billion annual boost to the state economy. Covering 860,000 acres, they account for 80 percent of world production. But the growth coincides with another record development here — drought — and the extensive water needs of nut trees are posing a sharp challenge to state water policy. Dino Giacomazzi, a fourth-generation dairy farmer in Hanford, is changing the makeup of his land. About 40 percent of his acreage — currently used for pasture or for alfalfa and other crops to feed cows — is being converted to almond fields. Almond trees are far more difficult to plant than field crops like alfalfa, Mr. Giacomazzi said. “It takes 40 guys a day to do 20 to 40 acres” of almonds. One man plus a tractor can plant 100 acres of alfalfa, he said. The diversity of agricultural efforts will make his business more secure, he believes. “The trees and dairy can support each other at different times,” he added. <more>

Dec. 27, 2014 The New York Times