One of my happy new discoveries among people writing about water in this time of drought is a guy named Dan Macon, who raises grass-fed lambs in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California. Mason’s one of those people who depend on water from the sky rather than irrigation water from a canal or groundwater pump, or household water from a tap. It’s a useful perspective:
[W]e have been planting almonds and other permanent crops on rangelands that were not previously irrigated. Technological and cultural advancements have made it possible to grow (and irrigate) crops on land that could only grow grass in years past. As Michele suggests, these decisions are largely economic – an unirrigated acre of grass provides a net return of $1.02 to a rancher, while an acre of irrigated almonds provides a net return of $195. However, these economic figures don’t answer questions about where the irrigation water comes from, or what happens during times of drought. An acre of grass during drought can still be grazed; an acre of almonds must be irrigated to survive – and this irrigation water is often groundwater.