Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always associated late spring and early summer with fruit.  It makes a certain amount of sense: this is the season when fruit becomes ripe.  If you have a garden, you’re probably just on the cusp of being overwhelmed with strawberries, tomatoes, and all manner of vegetables.  If you don’t garden, you’ve probably noticed that the grocery store’s produce section is becoming a lot more colorful – and a lot more affordable, too.

Regular readers have surely noticed that so far, we’ve covered each of the five food  groups  except for one.  So this article will cover the virtual water footprint of fruits, and how agricultural water used to produce these fruits can impact California in the midst of its drought.  Some virtual water guides will try to combine all fruits into one entry, but we know there are differences in comparing apples to oranges, so we’re going to break down some common fruits product by product.

Apples are emblematic of America.  Heck, when you want to describe how American something is, you literally draw a simile with Apple pie.  Which makes sense, given that apples are native to… central Asia? The good news is that since a kg of apples require only 877 liters of water to produce.

Bananas are quickly becoming the most popular fruit in the world.  Luckily, they aren’t too virtual-water intensive.  India is the world’s largest banana grower, but the transportation needs associated with getting that banana to the US can be prohibitive.  Even with the transportation factor, bananas are even bluer than apples, requiring less than 800 liters/kg

Another favorite, whether it be in fresh form or in juice, is the orange.  As a Californian, I’m well aware of Los Angeles’s history with orange orchards, and unlike some of California’s less-than-water-friendly crops, oranges do well in California’s natural climate.  Even better than apples and bananas in fact – a kg of oranges use only 80 liters of virtual water. 

Other drought-friendly fruits include peaches (140 liters for each kg), figs (700 liters per kg), grapes (200 kg per liter), plums (400 kg per liter), and strawberries (less than 100 liters). 

Dates aren’t quite as common as, say apples or bananas, and with good reason, too.  A kilogram of dates uses over 2,200 liters of water.   Other fruits to avoid for their footprint involve mangos (1800 liters per kg), cherries (over 1500 liters per kg), and coconut (yes, it’s a fruit, and a kg needs more than 1,000 liters.)