RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — Food, energy, and water are vital resources for modern living.
Yet modern societies have yet to figure out how to view and manage these resources as interdependent parts of a single system, thus maximizing their uses and streamlining their costs. In some cases, poor management of one resource has led to unintended consequences for others.
In the United States the problem is especially dire in arid and semiarid regions, where water scarcity and the effects of climate change have complicated resource management, said Kurt Schwabe, a professor of environmental economics and policy at the University of California, Riverside.
Schwabe and two UCR colleagues – Hoori Ajami, an assistant professor of groundwater hydrology, and Laosheng Wu, a professor of soil physics and water management specialist – along with a team of fellow researchers from Texas A&M University, have received a $2.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to collaboratively study and improve upon decision-making processes related to food, energy, and water resources, or FEW.
The grant will focus on two regions of the American Southwest that have experienced resource scarcities in recent years – Southern California and Southern Texas – to better understand the complicated intersections between food production, energy use and production, and water use and production.
“In the past, we’ve often seen the FEW sectors be analyzed in silos, or as independent entities,” Schwabe said. “We understand that there are interactions between these sectors, so now the question is: What can we gain by instead analyzing them within one system?”
Schwabe added that the goal of the three-year project, administered by NSF’s Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems (INFEWS) initiative, is multifaceted. A diverse lineup of hydrologists, economists, engineers, and agricultural experts will work together to develop modeling systems for future FEW decision-making that will be shared with industry stakeholders, agencies, and policy specialists, particularly those in areas that already are experiencing resource scarcities.