« Back to home

ALS, droughts and running the numbers

Posted on

The fad of the ALS bucket challenge has quickly given way to new thing: fining Californians who take the ALS bucket challenge. California’s in a drought. But that’s not really new. California has been in a drought since inception. Cadillac Desert and, of course, Chinatown cover the topic. The state has very few watersheds near where people live.

So what’s up? How big of a deal is this drought? Should we fine people for washing their cars, hosing down their sidewalk, or, you know, taking this 5 gallon bucket challenge? I ran the numbers. Let’s say that 40 million people take the bucket challenge with 5 gallons of water – 50 times. So that”s 10 billion gallons of bucket-head-dumping action. It turns out that’s <1% of the water the state uses annually … FOR GROWING JUST ALMONDS. Almonds alone use approximately 1.1 trillion gallons of water in California. That’s 10% of the state water supply. It should be noted here that that is just a tad less than is used by non-farmers in the state for all purposes. Water rides at Disneyland, people who water their lawns, wash cars, or do bucket challenges. That’s 15-20% of the usage in the state. Everything else is ag. Almonds are popular because they are California’s most lucrative crop – mostly for export. I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide if you should report your neighbor or call your state legislator when Ag uses 85% of the water in California for ~1.5% of its gross product. By the way, we’re being asked to fund more water infrastructure.