In a clever, highly readable piece, Alissa Walker (@awalkerinLA) of Gizmodo debunks the controversy surrounding almond production and water use. She proposes a different way to value water. Her analysis is thoughtful and useful in helping those concerned with ethical eating during a time of drought to understand the nuances and complexities of water and agricultural production.
A better way to think about a food’s value might be to think about how a gallon of water could translate into calories that most efficiently feed us humans. Is that gallon of water producing a crop with a fair amount of protein or does it have a high glycemic index that means our bodies burn through it quickly? Are there essential vitamins or nutrients? How efficiently could a gallon of water feed a certain amount of people? Does it require processing to eat it, which could create more water waste?
Raw almonds (which do have to be hulled) actually deliver fairly awesome nutritional value per serving. 23 gallons of water will get you 163 calories, 14 grams of fat, and 6 grams of protein. You’d be hard-pressed to find a delicious, locally grown healthy snack that will keep you full for an hour or so with a water footprint of less than 23 gallons.
As Walker notes, almonds are “a perfect example of how a crop can add value. In addition to creating societal value (producing a nutritious food) it’s contributing positively to the state’s—and therefore the country’s—economy.”
Water issues are complex. We need more pieces like this. (Take that, alfalfa and chickpeas). A must read.