Blame Strawberry-Obsessed Canadians For Worsening California's Drought

Canada chugs about 50,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of California’s water a year through its love for strawberries. So much for skipping showers and devising water-efficient ways of cooking pho, California.

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Jul 17 2015, 7:43pm

Photo via Flickr user

Consider this is a reminder: The drought that is currently decimating California—and the entire West Coast for that matter—is real and absolutely, utterly terrifying.

While many conscious Californians may be skipping showers, devising extremely clever water-saving ways of cooking H20-hogging foods like pho, and embracing drought-grown fruit's new flavor profiles (and consequently, using water-free methods for doing the dishes), it looks like Canada could be canceling out some of these efforts through its unquenchable craving for good ol' California strawberries.

Those juicy, crimson, oblong orbs of joy that we like to smother with over-whipped cream and fold into our Nutella crêpes are the state's number one import to our peaceful neighbors of the north, according to a report published yesterday on the Toronto Sun. Canada chugs about 50,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of California's water a year through its love for strawberries, which require about 12 gallons of water per pound to grow.

Strawberries are not as damaging to California's water supply as, say, almonds or industrial beef farming, but they are greedy assholes compared to other equally juicy fruit. Like prickly pears for example, which only require a meager watering once a month, or sometimes no watering at all.

You can blame Canada's water-abundant wet and cold weather for its strawberry season being so short, and the rules of supply and demand explain the rest. This year, Canada's season lasted only nine days, says Will Heeman of Heeman's Strawberry Farm in London, Ontario. In California, the strawberry season is year-round, which explains why California is the nation's leading producer of strawberries—but it does not justify the crop's apparent exemption from giving a fuck about the rest of the 38.8 million California residents who are, at least, not drinking as much water when they go out to restaurants anymore.

The reality is that farmers can't afford to stop planting high-value crops like strawberries, lettuces, and almonds even if they wanted to, especially with the cost of water quickly rising and farmers' profit margins getting smaller. It no longer takes a road trip up the 5 North from Los Angeles to San Francisco to see the impending rise of fruit and vegetable costs. This year, the cost of fruit is already 6 percent higher than last year.

Maybe it's time to start getting innovative with nopales beyond the occasional side salad accompanying tacos and that aforementioned cactus fruit. Prickly pear pie, anyone?

El Niño, save us all.