Watery Footprints

In early spring, my buddy Kymn shared her joy after an April shower with this Facebook post: “I cheered during yesterday’s rain on our blueberry bushes. It takes about 48 gallons of water to create a pint of blueberries.”


Yes, indeedy. Each food we eat can be measured by its very own water footprint, a reflection of the amount of water needed—directly and indirectly (water used along a food’s entire route from farm to fork)—to produce a certain amount of that food. It’s similar in concept to a carbon footprint. Maybe a little muddier.

 The Los Angeles Times ran an interactive graphics article in April 20151 allowing the reader to choose items on a dinner plate to see how much water those choices needed to grow up big and strong. Their example, a plate with 8 ounces of lentils, 6 ounces of rice, an 8-ounce serving of pear, and an eight-ounce glass of grapefruit juice to wash it all down, represented 708 gallons of water, without including the water needed for cooking, and assuming all ingredients are fresh, not frozen.

Here’s a sampling of other averages to whet your appetite:2,3

Let’s start with coffee. It’s figured it takes about 1056 gallons of water to produce a gallon of coffee.

And then there’s almonds. It takes an average of 1,929 gallons to make a pound of almonds. A pound of hazelnuts takes 1260, as does a pound of walnuts.  Cashews are thirsty little nuts, too, needing 1704 gallons for a pound.

Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli are dainty sippers compared to asparagus. That cruciferous trio requires only 34 gallons to produce a pound, compared to the 258 gallons asparagus sucks up to generate a pound of the succulent stalks.

Garlic? 71 gallons a pound. Olives? 361.

Tomatoes surprised me. They only need 26 gallons of water per pound. Eggplant needs 43 gallons.

I can’t bear to share the bad news about chocolate.

1. www.graphics.latimes.com/food-water-footprint/
2. www.waterfootprint.org/en/resources/interactive- tools/product-gallery/
3. www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/13/food-water-footprint_n_5952862.html