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Lacking water, farmers consider bulldozing valuable orchards

North of the Sutter Buttes, the Tuscan Aquifer contains enough water to sustain farming and urban uses for another 10 years of drought.
The California drought has become a significant player in farmer decisions about their cropland, reported Dan Reidel in the Chico Enterprise Recorder.

Reidel spoke to a farmer who pulled out 75 acres of almond trees because of limited well capacity. He is replacing old trees that have high water needs with saplings the use much less water.

Almond orchards typically need 40 to 43 inches of water per acre per year, said Joe Connell, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Butte County. That's about 27,000 gallons of water per acre.

Connell estimated orchards get about 12 acre-inches from rainfall in normal years with either surface water or groundwater supplying the rest. Farms that used surface water in the past have been scrambling to drill for groundwater and farmers who have pumped water for years have to face the rising costs of pumping water from deeper down, the article said.

"We're hitting historic low levels for groundwater this year," Connell said.

Even though the water level of the Tuscan Aquifer - a vast underground lake in the Tehama, Butte, Sutter and Yuma county area - has dropped 2 to 10 feet in places, Connell said it is far from depleted.

"The groundwater now could sustain another 10 years of drought," Connell said. "It's a deep, deep aquifer."

Posted on Monday, May 19, 2014 at 11:03 AM
Tags: drought (171), Joe Connell (11)

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