The Controversial Almond

A look into what it takes to grow these popular tree nuts

Almonds. Although many of us love this popular tree nut, not all know how much of a water-intensive crop they are. On average, it takes 1.1 gallons of water to grow a single almond! Over the last couple years, many have debated whether growing this crop is worth the water waste. California, the world’s leading almond producer, has to supply water year round for these thirsty trees. Many argue that the 9-10% of the state’s total water use that goes into growing this nut isn’t worth it, especially since climate change has worsened California’s drought and brought about even fiercer heat waves. 


“We are sending water out of the state, which is taking water from thirsty people,” Berkeley debate instructor Dr. Kuswa added. “The priority is on the almonds instead of the humans.” 


ALMOND SEEDS: Ripe almonds ready to be harvested before the drying process takes place. (Photo credit: Pikist)


THIRSTY CROP: Almonds Growing on a Tree in the San Joaquin Valley, California. (Photo by Britannica ImageQuest / Len Rue Jr.)


On the other hand, many argue that almonds are vital to California. Bringing in about $5.62 billion into their state government in 2020, California’s central valley sure does make a lot of money. Aside from being a healthy snack, almonds create almond milk, oil, butter, and even flour! The dry land, hot climate, and advanced water infrastructure of California makes it a great place for these almond trees to thrive. Although almonds use an outrageous amount of water, discontinued growth of them would be catastrophic for California. The 1.6 million acres of almond trees located in the state could die if not given enough water year round. These tree nuts are expensive and definitely are water-intensive crops, but the state of California and its farmers rely on the money and business they bring in. 


WATER, WATER, EVERYWHERE: Almond trees being irrigated in California’s Central Valley, which is in the grip of a four-year long drought. The catastrophic drought means that no crops will grow without increasingly scarce irrigation water. Many areas of farmland have been abandoned due to the drought. (Photo by Britannica ImageQuest / Science Photo Library)


Do you think these almonds are worth it?