(388e) Interventions for Reducing Energy Impacts of Water Embodied in Domestic Food Trade: A Network Perspective

Authors: 
Vora, N., University of Pittsburgh
Khanna, V., University of Pittsburgh
Integrated management of food, energy, and water resources has been advocated to mitigate unintended consequences of managing them in isolation. Food, energy, and water (FEW) systems are highly interdependent, interconnected, and exhibit numerous interactions at distinctive spatial scales. Sustainable management and availability of these resources will require quantitatively mapping their complex interdependencies and understanding their ecology. An integral component of food security and diversity involves trade of food items. Food trade also presents a pathway for transferring embodied resources and emissions associated with food production. For the United States (U.S.), irrigation adds significant value to food and feed production and represents a critical link for studying domestic FEW systems. Specifically, irrigation water withdrawals account for second largest freshwater withdrawals in the U.S. and has substantial associated energy and environmental impacts. We recently developed a network model of interstate food transfers for the U.S. The model was utilized to understand the energetic and greenhouse (GHG) impacts of irrigation embodied in interstate food transfers [1]. This analysis highlighted the high energy and GHG emissions embodied in irrigation associated with domestic food trade. We also proposed relevant network metrics to understand the structure of domestic food trade network and its implications for resilience.

In this work, we propose and evaluate a range of intervention strategies to enhance environmental sustainability and resilience of the domestic food trade network as they relate to irrigation and its embodied energy impacts. We use publicly available datasets to develop weighted and directed networks of interstate food trade and associated environmental impacts. We consider interstate food transfers of over 50 commodities including cereal grains, milled grains, livestock, and meat products. From a network perspective, the weighted food trade network consists of a few key states (Texas, California, Kansas) that control high throughput. We also observe that these influential states depend on water resources facing depletion risks (Colorado river basin, Ogallala aquifer), employ energy and water inefficient irrigation systems, and utilize electricity and diesel-based pumps. We evaluate the impact of technological, behavioral, and policy interventions using our interstate food network model to study their impact on the sustainability and resilience of the domestic FEW nexus. The investigated interventions include changes in irrigation practices, energy mixes, adjustments in diet patterns, and spatial changes in food production patterns. These strategies help in prioritizing and shedding light on interventions that aid in improving sustainability and resilience of the FEW nexus from a systems perspective as opposed to those that offer incremental advantages. The implications of these findings including their potential and limitations for enhancing the sustainability and resilience of the FEW nexus will be described in detail.

Reference Cited:

N. Vora, A. Shah, M.M. Bilec, and V. Khanna. Food-Energy-Water nexus: quantifying embodied energy and GHG emissions from irrigation through virtual water transfers in food trade, ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, 2017, 5(3), 2119-2128.