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The water we eat – from

By Jessica Carew Craft

The Water We Eat | Craftsmanship, Spring 2015

You drink eight glasses of water a day. But you consume far more through the food you eat.


The Water We Eat | Craftsmanship, Spring 2015

Some consumer items use a lot of water (jeans are among the most demanding), but the bulk of our water goes into food.


The Water We Eat | Craftsmanship, Spring 2015

With the return of intense drought in California, attention has focused on the “virtual water” that the state exports — just in the food it grows for others.


The Water We Eat | Craftsmanship, Spring 2015

Overall, however, considering all the people who live in California, the state ends up being a net importer of the water it eats. The big exporter is the American midwest.


The Water We Eat | Craftsmanship, Spring 2015

The US as a whole then exports our water so the rest of the world can eat it.


The Water We Eat | Craftsmanship Magazine, Spring 2015A lot of that “virtual water” goes to places without water shortages, such as the dark blue areas on this seasonal map of rain and snow patterns.

So why don’t we just grow food where the water is plentiful, and stop growing it where it’s dry? Take those villainous almonds, for example, which consume a gallon of water per nut. Analysts at Rabobank estimate that 80 percent of the world’s almonds–and 99 percent of those in the U.S.–are grown in California, where crippling droughts are becoming the norm.

The Water We Eat | Craftsmanship, Spring 2015

Unfortunately, almonds only grow well in dry climates, and they have flourished in California thanks to the state’s sophisticated (and heavily subsidized) system of irrigation. More important, the water almonds consume is nothing compared to the gallons you’re eating in many other foods.


The Water We Eat | Craftsmanship, Spring 2015

In some dry areas of the world, farmers are turning to less thirsty crops.



The Water We Eat | Craftsmanship, Spring 2015

There are lots of nutritious alternatives to the thirstiest foods. And many ways for cooks to make them tasty and appealing. Now we just have to wait for people to start cooking them.

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4 Responses to The water we eat – from

  1. Frank says:

    There’s more than enough water around the world for us to enjoy our almonds, beef and beer. We just do a lousy job of capturing it and managing it on the abundantly wet years. The left (statists) don’t care about fish or the environment as nearly as much as they care about control. The left statists can certainly voluntarily do their part and stop eating healthy nuts, drinking beer and wine and meat. Just eat eggs, potatoes and beans and do your part to save water. Oh and all you Beverley Hills LA folks can drain your pools and dry up your million $ landscapes and do your part too.

    • James says:

      Seems like Frank has his own control problems from the Right (status quo).
      What is Frank doing for our State’s water problem other than spouting off that it is the left’s or Beverly Hills’ fault. It is every Californian’s problem, and no Californian is excluded from resolving it.

  2. Steve Koehler says:

    I’m in the middle of either side. I think California could and should learn better efficiency protocols of water from other countries in the world that have been facing lower water supplies for many years. We need to learn from others that have gone through this before, and have input on better methods from multiple tiers of Californians to see if somebody out there clicks the “light bulb on” for a better remedy.
    In my opinion, California needs to lighten the crop production on some of the water-hungry crops (almonds, rice, etc) for now while we are in a shortage; get them from other countries in the meantime until we get back to a normal rainfall year. It’s a give and take. But many officials in gov’t have other motives for their agendas, so that probably won’t happen.
    It’s all wishful thinking in my mind. Not much gets changed and revised for “the better” even though it’s needed. It’s all about power and greed in this country..
    That’s my two cents.

  3. Gary Sheffield says:

    The dangerous problem is not that we are exporting “virtual water.” The dangerous problem is that we are pumping groundwater from deeper and deeper beneath our soil depleting our aquifers to grow cash crops. This is not sustainable and if the drought continues we are going to wish this water were still here to feed our families.

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