Going to the Well

Tom Philpott looks at California’s booming almond industry and its impact on the state’s water crisis:

“The value of the California almond market hit $4.8 billion in 2012 — that’s triple the level of a decade earlier. Only dairy is worth more to the state than almonds and grapes. In fact, almonds, along with California-grown pistachios and walnuts, are becoming so lucrative that big investment funds, eager to get in on the boom, are snapping up land and dropping in trees.

“There’s just one problem: Almond orchards require about a third more water per acre than grape vineyards. In fact, they’re one of California’s thirstiest crops. It takes a gallon of water to produce a single almond — more than three times the amount required for a grape and two and a half times as much for a strawberry.”