Water is essential for life, and it’s no secret that it’s used in practically everything we consume.
But have you ever stopped to think about just how much water goes into making some of our everyday essentials?
Take milk, for example. It’s a common household staple that many of us enjoy on a daily basis. However, did you know that cows consume up to 50 gallons of water every day to produce just one gallon of milk? And that’s not even taking into account the water used in the processing and packaging of milk.
With the rise in popularity of plant-based milk alternatives, such as almond milk, it’s important to consider the environmental impact of our choices.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at just how much water it takes to make a litre of almond milk and explore ways we can all make more sustainable choices.
How Much Water To Make A Litre Of Almond Milk?
Almond milk has become a popular alternative to dairy milk, especially among those who are lactose intolerant or follow a vegan diet. But have you ever wondered how much water it takes to make a litre of almond milk?
According to a study conducted in 2019, it takes approximately 375 litres of water to produce one litre of almond milk. This is significantly higher than the amount of water required to produce other plant-based milk alternatives, such as soy milk, which only requires 28 litres of water per litre.
The reason for this high water usage is due to the way almonds are grown and harvested. Almonds require a lot of water to grow, and they are predominantly irrigated in the United States, where most of the world’s almonds are produced. In contrast, almonds sourced from Europe are rainfed and have a much lower water footprint.
In addition to the water used in growing and harvesting almonds, more water is required in the processing and packaging of almond milk. This includes soaking and blending the almonds with water, as well as packaging and transporting the finished product.
The Environmental Impact Of Milk Production
The environmental impact of milk production is a significant concern, regardless of whether it’s dairy or plant-based milk. The production of cow’s milk, for instance, is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions due to the methane gas released by cows. On the other hand, plant-based milk alternatives like almond milk have a large water footprint.
A study conducted in 2019 showed that producing one litre of almond milk requires approximately 375 litres of water. This is significantly higher than the amount of water required to produce other plant-based milk alternatives, such as soy milk, which only requires 28 litres of water per litre. Furthermore, most almonds used in almond milk production are grown in California, which has been experiencing severe droughts for most of the decade. This has led to concerns about the environmental impact of almond farming and its effect on local ecosystems.
Despite this, plant-based milks still have a smaller carbon footprint and require less land compared to dairy milk. Studies have shown that dairy milk is around three times more greenhouse gas emission-intensive than plant-based milks. Additionally, dairy generally requires nine times more land than any of the plant-based alternatives. Every litre of cow’s milk uses 8.9 square meters per year, compared to 0.8 for oat, 0.7 for soy, 0.5 for almond and 0.3 for rice milk.
The Rise Of Plant-Based Milk Alternatives
The rise of plant-based milk alternatives has been driven by concerns about animal welfare, the environment, and health. People are becoming more aware of the impact that dairy farming has on the environment, such as greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution. As a result, they are turning to plant-based alternatives, which have a much lower environmental impact.
Soy milk and oat milk are two of the most popular plant-based milk alternatives. They use significantly less water than almond milk and have lower emissions. Soy milk is made from soybeans and requires only 28 litres of water per litre. Oat milk is made from oats and requires about 48 litres of water per litre.
Other plant-based milk alternatives include coconut milk and hazelnut milk. Coconut trees use significantly less water than dairy cows, but they are only grown in tropical areas. This means that large-scale production of coconut milk can encroach on wildlife habitats when producers expand their operations. Hazelnut trees, on the other hand, are cross-pollinated by wind, which means they don’t require bees to be brought in for pollination. Hazelnuts also grow in areas with higher rainfall, which means they demand significantly less irrigated water than almond trees.
How Almond Milk Is Made
Making almond milk at home is a simple process that requires only a few ingredients. First, high-quality, organic almonds are soaked in water for several hours to soften them. Then, the almonds are blended with fresh water until a smooth consistency is achieved. Finally, the mixture is strained through a cheesecloth or nut milk bag to remove any remaining solids.
While the basic recipe for almond milk only requires two ingredients – almonds and water – some people choose to add sweeteners or flavorings such as vanilla extract or dates to enhance the taste. Additionally, some recipes call for the use of an emulsifier such as sunflower lecithin to prevent the separation of the fat and water in the milk over time.
It is important to note that homemade almond milk may have a shorter shelf life than store-bought varieties due to the lack of preservatives. It is recommended to consume homemade almond milk within 3-4 days and to store it in the refrigerator.
Water Usage In Almond Milk Production
Almond milk production involves a significant amount of water usage throughout the entire process. To start, almonds require a lot of water to grow, and most of the world’s almonds are grown in California, which has been experiencing severe droughts for years. It takes approximately 1,611 gallons (6,098 litres) of water to produce just one litre of almond milk. This is a much higher amount compared to other plant-based milk alternatives like soy, which only requires 28 litres of water per litre.
The reason for this high water usage is due to the irrigation methods used in almond farming. Almond trees require a lot of water to grow, and most of the water used in almond farming comes from underground aquifers. This has led to the depletion of these aquifers, which has caused subsidence issues in California.
In addition to the water used in growing almonds, more water is required during the processing and packaging of almond milk. The almonds need to be soaked and blended with water, which requires additional water usage. The finished product also needs to be packaged and transported, which requires even more water.
Comparing Water Usage Of Different Milk Types
When it comes to the water usage of different milk types, it’s clear that dairy milk has the highest water footprint. A 2018 study found that it takes 628 litres of water to produce one litre of cow’s milk. This is in stark contrast to plant-based milk alternatives, which require significantly less water.
Soy milk, for example, requires only 270 litres of water per litre of milk, while rice milk requires just 48 litres. Oat milk falls in between, requiring 371 litres of water per litre of milk. However, it’s important to note that these figures can vary depending on factors such as where the ingredients are sourced and how they are processed.
Almond milk, as mentioned earlier, has the highest water usage of all the plant-based milk alternatives, requiring 375 litres of water per litre of milk. This is due to the high water requirements of growing almonds, as well as the processing and packaging involved in making almond milk.
Sustainable Choices For Milk Consumption
If you’re looking for a more sustainable option for milk consumption, there are several plant-based alternatives that have a lower environmental impact than dairy milk. Soy milk and oat milk are two popular alternatives that require significantly less water to produce than almond milk. In fact, oat milk has been identified as the most sustainable option by some experts.
Oats require about six times less water to produce than almonds, and they can be grown in a variety of climates without requiring irrigation. Additionally, oats have a lower carbon footprint than other crops and can be grown using sustainable farming practices.
Soy milk is another sustainable option, with a water footprint of only 28 litres per litre of milk. Soybeans are also a versatile crop that can be grown in a variety of climates, making them a more resilient option than almonds.
When choosing a plant-based milk alternative, it’s important to consider not just the environmental impact, but also the nutritional value and taste. Each type of plant-based milk has its own unique flavor profile and nutritional benefits, so it’s worth trying different options to find one that suits your preferences.