Our Food’s Footprint
We seldom think of the water footprint of our food, at least I don’t, but an interesting graph I recently saw really opened my eyes. Water footprint is important because often it is the case that land is not allocated for growing with this consideration in mind. For example, the food with the biggest water footprint is the tiny almond, grown in California, which supplies eighty percent of the world’s almonds. But it takes twelve liters of water to grow just three almonds, and when we consider that California is a desert, it begs the question whether California is the best place to grow this food. Almonds are ranked forty-three on the State’s water footprint ranking, whereas the juicy grapefruit has a footprint of only eight.
All of this came to my mind recently after driving the I5 through the San Jaoquin Valley and noticing miles of farrow trees dead and their stumps plowed up and sign after sign of farmers begging for just water rights. I don’t know that water guzzling almonds has any more do with it than housing communities springing up near farmland to accommodate ever increasing urbanization, and I realize there are other factors as well, not the least of which is that farms themselves increase as populations grow, so it is a far more complex topic than I can address. That being said, I can better mind my own business regarding what I consume and thereby contribute on a personal level to see that my consumption has less impact on an already strained ecosystem.
The graph attached below is very helpful for anyone who is health conscious for herself and her planet. In simple terms it describes the water footprint of foods, the overall health ranking, and key nutritional values such as protein, Vitamin E, Calcium, and so forth. Who would guess for example that Grapefruit is 24.9 on the nutrient overall ranking, and yet has a water footprint of only 8, while almonds have an overall nutrient rank of 13.3, but a water footprint of 43 (the highest on the list)! We sold about seven and a half billion dollars’ worth of almonds last year, and about a seventy-seven million dollars’ worth of grapefruit, even though the value/water footprint ratio of grapefruit is about 3, while the value/water footprint ratio of almonds is .6 (the lower number here is better)!
The attached link will take you to a graph with 41 common foods, everything from almonds to walnuts, from kiwis to cantaloupe, figs to lemons, onions to garlic, pretty much whatever we may put on our shopping list. I would be surprised if anyone reading it would not find ways to not only eat more nutritiously, but also do so with less stress on Mother Nature. It did so for me, and I hope it can do the same for you.