We’ve had water (and sometimes sand) on our minds quite a bit lately. We’ll be spending the summer in California’s Inland Empire, and the news about the state’s record drought is making us more aware of our water use. A recent article about the limits of California’s mandatory water reduction plan really brought home how much hidden water it takes to make the food and drink Americans consume every day.
In order to make this idea of a “water footprint” easier for the Younger Fives to picture, we spent a few days in homeschool calculating how many bathtubs of water (the average size is 60 gallons) it takes to make cow’s milk, almond milk, and soy milk. For us at least, the results were pretty jaw dropping.
Cow’s Milk: The water footprint of dairy milk is higher than the others because of the water it takes to grow feed. In California, cows are fed mainly alfalfa, which accounts for 15% of California’s total water use.
Almond Milk: Almonds also get a lot of attention in California’s drought as they account for 10% of the state’s total water use. This one took the most math to figure out, as there are no direct calculations about almond milk’s water footprint. For our calculations, we used data showing 23 almonds make 1/4 cup, each almond requires about 1.1 gallons of water to grow, and it takes 1 cup of almonds to make a quart of almond milk.
Soy Milk: Soy doesn’t have as much of a direct connection to California, but its role in deforestation in the Amazon Rain Forest is problematic. Organic soy may be a better choice, but we’re not sure if there’s a difference in the total water use between organic and non-organic soy milk (or for the other milks as well).
While our findings haven’t changed what appears on our breakfast table, it has definitely changed how we picture the items we pull from the fridge. And we haven’t even started to imagine the water it takes to make food items such as cereal and oatmeal (though we hope to soon). Now that we know they are there, it’s sure hard to ignore the bathtubs at the breakfast table.