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Towards Resilient Food-Energy-Water Systems in Response to Drought Impacts and Socioeconomic Shocks

Unless we fully understand how food, energy, and water (FEW) components are interconnected and how humans interact with them, especially during times of water shortage, these components will not be sustainable. The research supported by this award seeks to advance the knowledge of how FEW components are interconnected, interact, and operate in response to drought and economic shocks, and how humans can utilize these components to meet their livelihood demands in a sustainable way.

Primary Investigators:

Institution:

New Mexico State University

Abstract:

Unless we fully understand how food, energy, and water (FEW) components are interconnected and how humans interact with them, especially during times of water shortage, these components will not be sustainable. The research supported by this award seeks to advance the knowledge of how FEW components are interconnected, interact, and operate in response to drought and economic shocks, and how humans can utilize these components to meet their livelihood demands in a sustainable way. Humans, exemplified in this project by New Mexico (NM) residents, seek to meet their needs for food (e.g. agricultural products, milk, and beef), energy (e.g. electric power, industry, and transportation), and water (e.g. irrigation for agriculture, drinking water supplies, and food processing). These components are strongly interconnected as water is needed for food and energy production, energy is needed for food and water production, and effective food production will reduce and allow efficient use of water and energy. During periods of drought and high oil and gas prices, the competition between food and energy sectors over water resources intensifies. Farmers and ranchers must follow strategies that tend to reduce economic risks such as reducing traditional water consumption such as by selling water rights to the oil and gas industry. However, such strategies could result in reduction of food production. The proposed research will have direct societal benefits by engaging stakeholders and decision makers. Feedback from these activities will be used as guidance to develop resource management tools that are tailored to societal needs. Moreover, the proposed research activities will directly support underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) as it will be conducted at New Mexico State University, which is a minority serving-institution. Research fellowships will help graduate students and post-doctoral fellows gain STEM research experience while supporting research activities.

A knowledge gap exists due to insufficient understanding of strongly interconnected FEW systems and their ability to resiliently adapt to external stresses. Allocation of adequate quantities or stocks between food, energy, and water systems in a meaningful and resilient way goes beyond following simple and traditional socioeconomic practices because these practices are not evaluated within the context of FEW systems behavior and functionality. This research will develop tools to evaluate, adequately allocate, and manage available resources within a resilient FEW systems context that maintains responsiveness to drought and socioeconomic shocks. The project will develop: a systems dynamics model to identify, describe, and simulate linkages, stocks, and exchanges of fluxes between FEW systems components; a framework for evaluating coupled drought impacts and socioeconomic responses to shocks from oil and gas price fluctuations; and statistical model and evaluation criteria based on thresholds of indicators of FEW systems resiliency. These tools will account for human livelihood demands so that it can be used by researchers, stakeholders, and decision makers to help better understand the behavior of, and appropriately manage, FEW systems at any given point in time. This research is unique as it will provide an improved understanding of interconnected FEW systems by utilizing a systems dynamics modeling approach. The proposed research will also advance the knowledge about FEW systems by offering an explicit and quantitative description of linkages between of FEW systems components and external stresses imposed by drought and socioeconomic shocks for an improved and proper evaluation of FEW systems resiliency. While developed for New Mexico, the findings and tools that will be developed will also be applicable to other parts of the United States and the world as they will be transferable and adaptable.

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