I published some research I did on the water footprint of almonds compared to other foods on Medium. I’m pretty sure I messed something up, but it’s hard not to conclude that beef, not almonds, are the real issue in California’s drought.
Update: I redid the almond numbers based on a better source, and think I underestimated the amount of water per pound of almonds by about 4x. Here’s the new version of the conclusion to this piece:
There’s a pretty strong case against beef here. While almond critics like to point out that 10 percent of California’s water goes to almond farming, they don’t tend to mention that 50 percent goes towards livestock. While there’s no silver bullet answer to the drought crisis, it seems clear that best policy interventions would be those that curb beef production.
At the personal level, unless you have some medical condition that necessitates eating lots of beef, it seems hard to justify. Just cutting beef and lamb out of your diet would be almost as good as giving up meat altogether. But, as always, consult your doctor before making any sort of dietary changes.
Based on my math, almonds aren’t as bad as dairy milk or beef, but they certainly lag behind other alternatives, such as hazelnuts (which use almost as much water, but relatively little irrigation water) and coconut milk.
Those who want to err on the side of caution, but still want plant based alternatives, might consider diversifying their sources of fat. Personally, I’ve added pumpkin seeds and Oregon hazelnuts to my snack rotation, just to mix things up a little.
Please do keep on checking my math though!