How Much Water Does It Take?

The west is dry, that’s not a newsflash.  California, the largest farm state in our union, has a dire water shortage.  Do you think it matters?  Sure it does.    California grows crops – including nuts, fruits and vegetables – which are not grown anywhere else in the U.S.

A field of artichokes. Photo souce

A field of artichokes. Photo source

The thirstiest foods include beef, pork, lamb, goat, garbanzos (chickpeas), lentils, sweet peas, mangoes and asparagus.  Fortunately, many of these crops are grown in other states with a more steady water supply.

The less thirsty crops include strawberries, cabbage, onions, lettuce, carrots, eggplant, grapefruit and tomatoes.  Most of these crops grow primarily in California.

It takes 1 gallon of water to produce a single almond.

It takes more than 5 gallons of water to produce just one head of broccoli.

The value of water used on almonds is higher than on most crops.  California’s almond harvest was worth $5.8 billion in 2013, second only to milk and ahead of grapes (think California wine).  Walnuts and pistachios ranked 6th and 12th.

Regardless of value, nuts use a lot of water.

82% of the worlds’ almonds are grown in California – nearly all in the Central Valley, using 10% of the state’s water supply.  Almond growers can’t just let their orchards lay fallow as other farmers can… if they don’t water, the trees which were meant to produce for 18-20 years will die.

An almond orchard. Photo source

An almond orchard. Photo source

Fruits and nuts are 45% of revenue of California agriculture, and consume 34% of all farm water in the state.

When we hear about California’s water woes, we must remember that they grow a lot of our produce.

Pray for California (and all the west) to receive steady and life-giving rain!


This, from the April 17, 2015 issue of The Agriculture Letter

This entry was posted in Ag Production, Feeding the World, Water and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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