You've probably heard that there's a drought in California. A severe, mandatory watering-bans, no seriously they might run out of water type drought. Which is not particularly expected to end anytime soon. This sucks and is also kind of alarming when you consider that the majority of the produced consumed in the U.S. is grown in California, but we can't control the weather, and if you don't live there, there's not much you can do about it, right?
I was fact-checking some stuff for a comment I wanted to make, and I discovered: 75-80% of California's water goes to agriculture. And a big chunk of that (fully 10% of the water use in CA) goes to growing almonds. 80% of the entire world supply of almonds comes from California. So if you're eating an almond, it almost certainly came from California.
And almonds are horrifically water-intensive. Pound-for-pound, almonds take more water to produce than pretty much any other food crop grown in the U.S.. They're worse than beef, which is usually the thing that people bring up when they talk about food and drought. They are so bad that I can present you with the complete (as far as I can tell) list of foods that take more water to grow than almonds, right here: sesame oil, cocoa, coffee (roasted), nutmeg, cloves, and vanilla beans. Note that most of them spices, consumed in much smaller quantities than nuts, and almost all of them are grown in the tropics, where there's more rain.
So why do California farmers use so much water growing almonds? Because they're really profitable. And why are they profitable? Because people pay money to buy them.
And "people" means us. You and me and others like us, we buy almonds. If we stop buying them (or at least buy a lot less of them), demand goes down, profits drop, and it stops making economic sense for farmers to use so much water growing almonds. If California stopped growing almonds entirely, 10% of the state's water use -- an amount equal to 2/3 of the total residential use -- would just go away.
That won't happen, but that's still a pretty big policy lever, and adding one more person's worth of collective push on it is probably the single biggest contribution that any one of us could possibly expect to make towards solving the problem. (I mean, unless you're an almond farmer or a state legislator. Which I'm not.)
And it's not a significant hardship for me. I like almonds, but I don't depend on them. It's not going to dramatically worsen my life to try to avoid them. So yeah, I kinda feel like I gotta do it.
Goodbye, almonds, I will miss you. But you are too thirsty.