Water in western states is becoming a scarce resource. With populations continuing to grow, local municipalities in the west have been forced to over-tap rivers and ground water supplies to keep up with demand. Combined with a never ending drought, water management in the west, especially in Mohave County, is an important topic. “In order for future generations to be able to continue to call Mohave County home, we have to ensure the water supply is going to be sustainable,” Supervisor Buster Johnson stated. Supervisor Johnson is concerned right now with the growing number of land being bought up in the Valle Vista Subdivision, in the Kingman area, by a California nut farm company that anticipates to use the land to farm pistachios, walnuts and almonds. “What concerns me about this particular situation, is that the co-owner of California’s Beard Nut Company is buying close to 6,000 acres of property all under different names,” Johnson stated.
According to documents obtained from the County Assessor’s Office, over 5800 acres of land located just West of Valle Vista off of Route 66 was recently purchased by three different Limited Liability Companies all with the same mailing address in Empire, California. “Mohave Valley University, LCC, Valle Vista Environmental Studies LLC, and RB Ranch Development LLC are the names being used to buy up all this land,” Johnson said. In past press releases, Bruce Beard, co-owner of California’s Beard Nut Company, has admitted his intention to bring nut farming to Mohave County by involving RB Ranch Development and Valle Vista Environmental Studies LLC’s. Mohave Valley University, LLC, a name not mentioned by Beard in the past, is the largest owner of the land. “In May of 2015, they bought a 4038.34 acre foot parcel next to other parcels owned by the other two companies,” Johnson stated. “What Beard Nut Company is doing is not unusual. There are several farming companies in California moving into Arizona and Mohave County particularly. Due to the water restrictions and drought conditions going on in our neighboring state, Arizona is logically the perfect alternative,” Johnson continued.
While Johnson supports economic development, his concern is with the water needed for these farms. According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study, each acre of almonds uses three to four acre-feet of water each year, most of which are delivered via river diversions or groundwater. “With the amount of land purchased for farming, it is estimated that with full production Beard’s Nut Company would use roughly 24,000 acre feet of water a year,” Johnson stated. Aside from almonds, Beard has also stated his intent to grow walnuts on the properties. The USDA states that one walnut takes roughly 4-9 gallons of water to produce. “The recent loss of water rights on the Big Sandy coupled with the increased farming activity in the Hualapai Valley and Sacramento Basins near Kingman brings concerns to the longevity of adequate water supplies for Mohave County. If you combine the number of water being used by this company with the number being used by other farming companies around the area, we are talking about hundreds of thousands of acre feet per year. This will drastically reduce local aquafers and could cause local wells to run dry,” Johnson stated. “Water resources are invaluable, and the amount of research being done on how much these farming companies are going to use up needs to occur,” Johnson ended.