At a Glance
Water is often the common currency of food production, energy demand and energy production in irrigated agricultural systems. Intensively managed basins routinely have surface-water irrigation, groundwater irrigation and hydropower production operating in tandem. Reservoir managers must balance releases to meet agricultural demands and ecosystem needs while maximizing energy production. Agricultural users seek to maintain a reliable water supply for food production by supplementing surface water with groundwater, but must pay a higher energy cost for pumping. While there have been many operational studies of large-scale irrigated systems, the majority of tools applied to these problems focus on the human systems and simplify the natural hydrology. This can result in tools that are blind to the synergies and feedbacks that occur as water is redistributed across the landscape.
This research addresses this gap by developing novel tools that can simulate FEW interactions in complex human and natural systems. Our team is leveraging international advances in physically based integrated numerical modeling by bringing together two teams of modelers from the U.S. and China. Our goal is to explore the tradeoffs between agricultural water supply, hydropower production and environmental degradation in two globally important agricultural systems: The Central Valley of California and the Heihe River basin in China. Specifically, the project explores how the vulnerabilities of food and energy systems differ, where conflicting interests can lead to system inefficiency and environmental degradation, and the advantages of applying integrated hydrologic models to these human systems.