It wasn’t that long ago that being a milkman was a career option. And only one kind of milk was in the truck. But today, there’s whole, skimmed, almond, rice, and soy and more. Dairy milk per capita dropped by 25% from 1975 – 2012. Since 1999, alternatives’ growth rates have been 10% annually. But now the drought. The plot thickens. Which is best for you? Which is milk is best for our society in time of drought?

It would appear that almond milk – at 1.1 gallons per almond – would be the worst, the most water-intensive milk produce. But further investigation finds that almond milk is made by blending soaked almonds with water and flavoring agents. Most of the milk-like product is water, not almonds. Most commercial products include a sweetener, be it honey or sugar. A pound of almonds is nearly 377 almonds. If the milk were 100% almonds, it would require over 400 gallons of water to produce. But commercial almond milk products are reportedly only 1 – 2% almonds.

Homemade almond milk recipes are “thicker” and call for ¼ – 1/3 of a cup of almonds for every cup of water. Homemade almond milk may require 50 – 60 almonds per pound product. In both of these scenarios, almond milk is preferable to dairy from a water standpoint. Dairy milk requires 90 – 120 gallons per pound in its production.

And there are other alternatives. Soymilk is made by blending re-hydrated soy beans with water. While its high protein is attractive, it does not have the robust health value as dairy or almond milk. Rice milk is another tasty option, high in carbohydrates and low in protein.

So… drink what appeals and what nourishes the body. A January 2015 Mother Jones article ripped on almond milk, telling “ignorant hipsters” to lay off. First, the article claimed, almond milk lacks the nutrition of dairy milk. Second, it’s mostly water with flavors and sugars.

There are trade offs in each case. Dairy is especially good for bone development in younger years. Later, lower cholesterol alternatives may be desirable. There are strong lactose-intolerant alternatives. While difficult to calculate, and others’ results conflict, it does not appear that one’s choice of milk will impact California’s drought in any significant way. We’ve got bigger fish to fry!