Almonds – water footprint
Climate change experts linking greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to food, tell us that dairy is very problematic in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent. But, before we run off and replace all our dairy for almond this and almond that, I want to look at the water footprint of the simple little nut (well they are actually seeds I think).
Foods with some of the highest water-scarcity footprints are almonds. Eighty percent of the worlds almonds are grown in California – most of the are exported. It takes up to 10,000 litres of water to produce a kilogram of almonds in California. The water footprint of only one almond is on average 12 litres.
Almond orchard acreage has doubled in the last 20 years and this small nut is becoming California’s most extensive irrigated crop. However, what are the benefits and impacts derived from this use of already very scarce water in that part of the world?  The water footprint varies even within the counties in California. Almonds are being called a very healthy food and the production of them is very profitable. However, their production requires significant volumes of water in areas already impacted by water scarcity. The almond is a permanent crop, so planting almonds means there is a long term future water demand
The solution to the problem is not to make growers stop growing almonds but to identify the most productive croplands and shifting water to them instead. Ideally we should make sure that finite and stressed water resources are used in the most efficient way possible. This might mean growing food, taking a shower, or producing energy.