Water Consumption of Idaho Potatoes

Most of you have probably never been, or even wanted to go to Idaho. Probably the most random state in the US, we have one thing that we are known for. This thing is so popular, in fact, that we emblazon it on our license plates! Idaho is loud and proud about our potatoes. And yes, before you laugh, there is other stuff to do there too, but potato production is the pride of the Gem State. On a more analytical level, the potato production out of Idaho alone accounts for $1.9 Billion dollars a year of profit for the state. Idaho produces more potatoes per year than any other state, with 62% being used for processed/ dehydrated foods (such as McDonald’s french fries), 29% are shipped fresh and 9% are planted for certified seed. 310,000 acres of land in Idaho are dedicated to the growth and harvest of potatoes. Last year alone, Idaho produced 134,850 cwt of potatoes. 1cwt = 112 pounds. So that means that last year, Idaho produced 15,103,200 pounds of potatoes. The average weight of one russet burbank potato (which is the most commonly produced type of potato in Idaho) is 5-7 oz. So basically, that’s a whole lot of potatoes.

As far as water is concerned, this level of growth places constant stress on the environment. Most of Idaho is high desert, which means that it is in a state of perpetual drought. An average of 34 gallons of water is required to grow just one pound of potatoes. So if we are to estimate how much water was used to grow Idaho’s potatoes last year, that figure sits somewhere in the ballpark of 513,508,800 gallons. (However, it was probably more because the number of pounds of potatoes produced, does not account for the potatoes that went bad or were contaminated in the growing process). All in all, this is a huge amount of water being used by only one state for only one crop. While the Idaho potato industry may be lucrative and historic for the state, it is not environmentally conscious nor is it sustainable at this rate.

2 thoughts on “Water Consumption of Idaho Potatoes

  1. Wasting water is extremely prevalent through the irrigation of crops. As I wrote about in my post this week, more than 50% of the water used on crops through irrigation is being wasted in a variety of ways; evaporation, run off, and over-watering. However, water use for crops is essential, especially in the situation in Idaho, where potatoes are the economic backbone of the state. Thus, reducing water used for crops is a complex task because it is technically a necessary evil. I wonder if there are ways that Idaho is attempting to limit the amount of water used on crops—maybe a different type of irrigation system? This would be an interesting topic to research.

  2. Has there been any test trials of different irrigation techniques on smaller potato farms? That could be an interesting thing to research, but I understand the reason of why would a single state, with such a valuable asset, want to change what its doing if they’re raking in billions. Interesting to learn more about the vegetable everyone seems to love and the fact that 34 gallons of water is needed to yield one pound of potatoes is pretty awe-inspiring. I’d like to see if experimentation or research has been done to lower that number of gallons needed.

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