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Every Drop Counts

Getting The Most Out of Every Drop

All food takes water to grow, and almonds are no exception.

What sets almonds apart is that we have learned and innovated to use water in the most efficient way possible, which improves water use across all of agriculture.

Ninety percent of California almond farms are family farms,1 many owned by third- and fourth-generation farmers who live on the land and plan to pass it down to their children. This means they understand the need to farm responsibly, managing resources carefully for future generations. California is one of the five regions in the world where almonds can grow, but with climate change making California more susceptible to water scarcity and droughts, farmers are even more committed to using this precious resource wisely.

Water Research & Innovation

Investing in efficiency.

The Almond Board of California began investing in research in 1982 to determine if a new irrigation method—microirrigation—could work in almond orchards. Previously farmers had flooded their fields or used large sprinklers. The results were positive and, by applying water directly to the trees’ roots rather than across the field, farmers conserved water and increased yields. In fact, between the 1990s and 2010s, almond farmers reduced the amount of water used to grow each almond by 33 percent.3 Today, 83% of California almond farms use microirrigation4,  nearly two times the rate of California farms overall.5

almond orchard 2025 goals

We  know there is still more to be done , and that’s why we’re doing it. By 2025, we commit to reduce the amount of water to grow each almond by an additional 20 percent.   This work is driven by research that improves water conservation in almonds and across all of agriculture, with 239 water research projects funded to date.

While ABC’s research partners advance irrigation science, those results are only as useful as their adoption on-farm. That’s the core focus of ABC’s Industry Outreach who provide boots-on-the-ground support, meeting one-on-one with farmers to provide training and technical information and share best practices. One of those resources, the Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum, is helping almond farmers to accelerate adoption of water-conserving technology. 

Vox: Love Almonds?

Growing Plant-Based Protein. 

While almond trees use around the same amount of water as other fruit and nut trees,  plants require more energy, and thus more water, to create protein than sugars6.  So although nuts need more water than most fruits and vegetables, they are also rich in essential nutrients, good fats and protein. 

What’s more, the water used to grow almonds also grows hulls, shells, and trees - items that feed dairy cows, provide livestock bedding and create oxygen and capture carbon. Unlike other foods that can leave behind pits, peels and rinds, with almonds nothing goes to waste.

The almonds we grow can be used to produce a wide variety of products, with one popular option being almond milk, a dairy-free alternative to cow’s milk. Whilst all popular plant-based milks use different amounts of water, there's more to consider than just water when it comes to environmental impacts. A University of Oxford study that examined the environmental impact of various plant-based milks also considers land use and greenhouse gas emissions – two areas where almonds win7. What’s more, it’s also important to consider the different nutritional values each milk offers. Almond milk can offer a low calorie and low sugar option, when unsweetened, compared to dairy milk and other plant-based products.

did you know...

Replenishing groundwater.

Groundwater is a vital resource in California, held in underground aquifers that are collectively California’s largest water storage system. Groundwater is used to grow food and provide drinking water across the state.

To support water sustainability in California, almond farmers are exploring how California’s almond orchards can be leveraged to replenish this important resource. On-farm groundwater recharge applies excess winter floodwater to dormant orchards, allowing it to seep down and restore groundwater.

Research has shown that 675,000 acres of California almond orchards have soil suitable for groundwater recharge3. Combined with access to excess stormwater in wet years, these farms would be good sites for replenishing underground aquifers.

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On-Farm Groundwater Recharge - Explained
Spotlight On Water
Water Footprint + Almonds
2025 Goals: Water Efficiency

1University of California, 2010. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, 2012. Almond Board of California, 1990–94, 2000–14.

2United States Department of Agriculture. 2017 Agricultural Census. Table 6.

3University of California, 2010. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, 2012. Almond Board of California, 1990–94, 2000–14.

4California Almond Sustainability Programme. November 2020.

5California Department of Water Resources. California Water Plan Update. 2013.

6Larry Schwankl, et al. Understanding your orchard’s water requirements. University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Publication 8212. 2010.

7J Poore and T Nemecek. Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. University of Oxford. 2018.