Keep showering, California.
Just lay off the burgers & nuts.

How changing what we eat is key to managing California’s megadrought.

By now, you’ve probably heard that California is experiencing a historic megadrought. Even if you don’t live in California, this affects you. The golden state grows one-third of the vegetables, two-thirds of the nuts and fruits, and ninety percent of the wine cultivated in the United States each year.

California’s real water hog?

Agriculture, which sucks up the other 80%. More specifically, the growing and manufacturing of proteins like nuts and livestock. Fascinatingly, the agriculture industry received no restrictions from the governor, just a mandate to report their usage to state regulators.

But first, just how bad is the drought?

NASA scientist Jay Famiglietti’s recent LA Times op-ed “California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?” details the 34 million acre foot stored water deficit.

This is an acre foot. It’s not to scale.

One almond = one gallon of water

80% of all water in California is used to support agriculture, and a whopping 10% overall goes just to almond production. That’s right: 10% of all water, almost 2x all commercial use, goes to the almond industry.

Source: National Drought Mitigation Center

One lb of beef = 2500 gallons of water

Let’s translate that to more familiar currencies: showers and hamburgers. Turns out that the water needed to grow two and a half pounds of beef, or ten 4oz hamburgers[2], is the same amount the average person uses to shower. For a year.

Ten hamburgers = One year of showers

Using hamburger math, we discover that cutting the demand for beef by forgoing one quarter pounder almost every month is equivalent to forgoing personal hygiene every day for a year. Another part of the beef equation worthy of mention: the water it takes to grow livestock feed like alfalfa, which covers over 1 million acres of California, and is a major agricultural export to China.

Numbers vacillate depending upon growing methods, and each has a different protein efficiency and bio-availability. These are the most commonly accepted numbers I found on my intertube travails.

80% of the world already eats insects.

Consider the cricket. Crickets are nutritionally complete, contain fiber, Omega-3 fatty acids, and a slew of other important vitamins and minerals. They take up just 2 square feet of pasture per pound versus beef’s 200 square feet. They emit zero greenhouse gases. And pertinent to this conversation, they require only one gallon of water for every one pound grown. Even the United Nations put out a report calling edible insects a “key to global food security”.

There’s a lot at stake.

California just passed Brazil to become the seventh largest global economy. According to Bloomberg, California’s gross domestic product (GDP), which includes the film industry and Silicon Valley, was $2.2 trillion in 2013, and continues to rise.

Wherein it is suggested that almond farmers start growing crickets

Cricket farming provides a major economic opportunity for almond farmers, or really any farmer, looking for more income. Current market rates for human-grade cricket powder are over $20/lb. A population of crickets goes from egg to full grown in just six weeks, similar to chickens. They grow best in small, warm spaces, which means shipping containers and low cost modular farms can be popped up practically anywhere. Best of all, they require very little water, land and feed.

Still curious?

Author 📖 Bumpin’: The Modern Guide to Pregnancy (Simon & Schuster) 🕵️‍♀️ schemer

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