Under the entwined influences of population rise, climate change, urbanization, and environmental deterioration, various water issues emerge at the global arena. Nations, particularly developed nations with established water infrastructure systems, have begun to consider more efficient management strategies and improved infrastructures in the face of anticipated increased demands for water. Conventional engineering and management decisions makers for water resources tend to consider cost and quantity water parameters. However, achieving optimal, sustainable water allocation and management decisions demands a holistic approach; one that considers all stakeholders and observers and which takes into account the costs of energy production, food production, and the environment.
This study intends to establish a water-energy-food (WEF) nexus based analytical framework to quantify the tradeoffs between the various tenants of the nexus considering multiple interventions across ranges of water consumers. The case selected for the study is Matagorda County: once famous for its lucrative rice farms. However, recent water shortages have caused dramatic shifts in its cropping patterns. Matagorda County is home to one of two nuclear power plants in Texas, which consumes approximately one-third of Matagorda’s existing water supplies. Recently issued licenses will more than double energy production from the plant and will further exacerbate the remaining natural resources of the county. Keep in mind that there are also other external factors that need to be accounted such as sharp rise in population, climate change, urbanization, and rising energy demands. Thus, consideration of the tradeoffs involved is critical for sustainable management of the primary resources as we face the growing water gap, today and into the future.
This study is devoted to bringing optimal water allocation analysis: feasible scenarios to calculate this optimum in light of other primary resource demands and constraints (environmental, financial) are considered. Possible interventions include providing additional conventional and non-conventional water supplies, constructing new or improving existing infrastructures, and altering current cropping patterns. The WEF nexus tool analyzes each scenario, while considering water, energy, food, land allocation, financial costs, and environmental cost parameters. A sustainability analysis is carried out using the data produced by the tool to present water-centric, food-centric, environment-centric, cost-centric, and all-equal (optimum) scenario. Water managers, planners, stakeholders, and other observers will be able to utilize the outcomes of the study, depending upon their demand perspectives. Policy makers will have opportunity to decide optimal, sustainable, and holistic water allocation which analytically takes multiple perspectives into account. Conclusions will be drawn and recommendations offered based upon the identification of the causes of water stress, enabling future mitigation of water stresses in light of WEF inter-linkages.