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June 23, 2015

The numbers behind agricultural water use

Perhaps you’ve noticed-and questioned-recent reports about California’s drought and the surprisingly large quantities of water required to produce foods grown there. Fifteen gallons for a handful of almonds? Twelve for a head of lettuce? Come on! Hearing the numbers is enough to provoke a spit take. Well, settle down: The figures are generally correct, although they do involve a bit of numeric license. Water applied to orchards, for example, supports entire trees, not just the edible fruits and nuts they bear. The measurements may include rainfall as well as irrigation. And the figures are averages, which are convenient but coarse reference points that conceal wide ranges of consumption. Read More

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