California's Almond Problem

Shutterstock

The new California gold rush is a bit, well, nutty: According to USDA predictions reported Monday, farmers will harvest a record 2.1 billion pounds of almonds this year.

That's great news for almond-lovers, but not-so-great news for California, which produces 80 percent of the world's almonds. A single almond requires 1.1 gallons of water to produce, and seeing as the state is currently in the middle of a devastating drought, that's water farmers have to drill deep for – 2,500 feet deep, in fact.

So why keep almond groves around? Because the U.S. and Asia's demand for the nuts is skyrocketing. Between 2009 and 2013, almond prices doubled and tripled depending on the variety.

Mother Jones

But even as the almond business booms, California ecology is heading toward a bust. In San Joaquin Valley, the ground has been sinking by an average of 11 inches per year, thanks to over-pumping of aquifers. Worse, groundwater depletion has been making the Sierra Nevada and Coast Mountain ranges slowly rise, which could potentially trigger earthquakes. And finally, honeybee colonies could be on the brink of collapse, as a whopping 60 percent of the nation's managed honeybees devote their efforts to California's almond orchards.

(Image via ievgen sosnytskyi/Shutterstock.com)

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