Sunday, July 26, 2015

Salt Poisoning California Almonds

The Salt:
As California's drought drags on, its almond industry has come under scrutiny. As you've probably heard by now, almonds use a lot of water — about one gallon per nut. Most growers are relying on groundwater even more this year, because their surface water has been cut off. But that brings a different problem all together: too much salt.
Not the salt added to make roasted almonds savory, but salt in groundwater – which is killing trees.
"The trees just don't look healthy," says Paul Parreira. He and his brother David ship over 30 million pounds of almonds around the globe each year from Rpac Almonds, in California's Central Valley.
"Everybody is watering at the minimum levels with high-salinity water," he says. "It's a double-edged sword."
High salinity levels in groundwater used for agriculture has long been a problem in the west side of the Central Valley, but this year, it's also an issue on the east side, a growing region at the base of the Sierra Nevada that's usually wet. Many farmers have zero allocation of surface water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, so they're forced to irrigate with salty groundwater. And the few farmers who do get delta water say it's also saltier than normal these days.
Without an end to the drought, agriculture in the Central Valley will be shrinking.  That is significant for the entire world.

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