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California Almond Harvest May Break Records Despite Drought

With the drought easing in parts of California, this year’s almond harvest is shaping up to be a record haul for the state that could help its growers crack the nut on more sales. The harvest underway in California’s San Joaquin Valley is expected to result in an estimated 2.05 billion pounds of almonds this season, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s up about 8 percent from last year and would shatter 2011’s record crop, which weighed in at 2.03 billion pounds.

BLOG: Experts Weigh In: California’s Biggest Water Policy Priorities

Five years into a drought, California is facing essential decisions about its water future. It’s implementing new groundwater law, weighing the pros and cons of a large infrastructure project for water supply and beefing up its data collection. But there’s more to do. Water Deeply asked four experts who work in different arenas of California water issues what they think should be California’s biggest policy priority to address in the next year. Here’s what they had to say.

California Farm Revenue Plunges in 2015

Farm revenue in California dropped by more than $9 billion last year as the drought forced farmers to scramble for water and crucial commodities declined in price, according to data released by the state and federal governments Tuesday. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s economic research service said farm income totaled $47.07 billion last year in California. That compared with a record $56.61 billion in 2014. All through the drought, which has cut off deliveries of surface water supplies to large swaths of the Central Valley, farmers have been able to increase revenue by pumping more groundwater and switching to high-dollar crops such as almonds.

Artificial Turf Fields Taking Shape in Encinitas

Work is well under way on new artificial turf playing fields at Leo Mullen Sports Park in Encinitas, and kids should be able to play on the new surface soon if all goes as planned. Part of the project’s $1 million price tag is being covered by a $171,248 water rebate from the Metropolitan Water District, and in order to receive that money, the city has to have the construction activity “substantially complete” by Sept. 6. “We actually think we’ll get the project done before that,” said city Public Works Director Glenn Pruim.

Brown Signs Bill Allowing Utilities to Fine Water Wasters

California water suppliers can begin warning and fining residential users for excessive water use during drought emergencies under a bill signed Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown. California’s more than 400 urban water suppliers will be tasked with creating a scheme that identifies water-guzzling water homeowners drought emergencies as well as implementing a system to hand out warnings and potential fines. Senate Bill 814 takes effect Jan. 1 and gives suppliers the authority to create new rate structures for high-volume water offenders. The law also authorizes fines of $500 per each 748 gallons used above the district’s maximum threshold.