Alpro’s almond supply chain is shaking things up. The goal is to go beyond usual water efficiency targets and set science-based targets for water. The study builds on the Planetary Boundaries Framework, to set sustainable freshwater balance targets for farms in Alpro’s almond supply chain. Establishing more meaningful water targets starts with a need to understand, and relate to, the freshwater context of basins where almonds are sourced, as they are not all subject to the same conditions.
Some of Alpro’s almond sourcing regions are water stressed and are likely to continue to face growing water challenges in the future. For example, the sub-basin assessed in the pilot of this program indicated precipitation for 2017 was ~35% lower than an average year, with the timing of this precipitation also shifting within the year. Understanding these insights not only helps us ensure consistent future supply but allows farmers to adopt targets and practices that enable local ecosystems, economies and communities to thrive and sustain.
Together with an almond cooperative, the pilot began by deducing a more detailed freshwater balance assessment within a sub-basin of the river Ebro in Spain, where 3 almond farms are situated. The pilot then sought to quantify the current surface freshwater balance, current uses and pathways to ensure sustainable use within this sub-basin. The insights of this work enabled recommendations to be proposed for alternative basin-scale boundaries, compared to what is currently in the Planetary Boundaries Framework. These limits could better account for both surface blue water (water from surface or groundwater resources) and green water (rainwater stored in soil and metabolized by plants) consumption in ways that better take into account the freshwater needs of nature.
The pilot created actionable recommendations for Alpro, which could help preserve business value - including identifying the months of the year where overall water demand may exceed renewable supply. This presents an opportunity to tailor and efficiently deploy water efficiency programs during these months. Additionally, the assessment suggested that nut farming represents the largest agricultural water user within the sub-basin, an insight that enables future collective action to free up water resources.