Almond producers taking heat over water use

Apr 10, 2015

The extreme water conservation measures mandated by Gov. Jerry Brown has pundits casting a critical eye on the California almond industry, reported Daniel Dale in, a Canadian news website.

It takes nearly four litres of water to produce each solitary almond, the article said (about one gallon). The almond's small size, high retail price and easy-to-understand water needs create a a handy example of purported ag water gluttony for people being asked to conserve.

Almonds have become California's second-most lucrative crop and No. 1 agricultural export, but doesn't deserve "as much of a target as is on its back," said David Doll, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources almond expert. Doll is a farm advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Merced County.

The industry, he said, has reduced its water use by about 30 percent over the last 30 years. At 0.8 litres of water per calorie produced, the almond is actually more efficient than the average food crop.

And the one gallon of water, Doll said, produces not just the edible almond but a hull and shell that are used as livestock feed, reducing the need for water-consuming corn and alfalfa.

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist