- freely available
Sustainability 2017, 9(12), 2204; https://doi.org/10.3390/su9122204
1.1. Food-Energy-Water Nexus Research
1.2. Stakeholder Identification and Analysis in Environmental Management
2. Study Context
2.1. Phoenix Active Management Area
2.2. Overview of Water, Energy, and Food Components in the Phoenix AMA
3. Research Method
3.1. Participant Selection
3.2. Data Collection and Analysis Procedures
4.1. Salience and Utility of the Nexus Concept to Stakeholders
No. Certainly Energy-Water Nexus has been out there for more than a decade as a major topic, but putting it together to say-taking the Energy-Water Nexus and saying the Food-Energy-Water Nexus, it seems to me to be a bit newer. It makes sense, but as a framing it’s a newer—I see it as a newer perspective.
We talk a lot about food and we talk a lot about water obviously, because of our environment here in Arizona. And maybe not so much about energy. I think we recognize that as an important component, but I don’t know that it’s—on a regular basis I don’t think we necessarily talk about those three together. I think we generally talk about food, land and water.
Yeah. You know, I think it would be better—you know, you hear a lot about the water energy nexus. And a lot of people don’t understand what that means. You have to explain it. But I think when you add the variable food, you get—food’s such a general term. It gets a little bit muddled on what exactly it means, and what are you trying to get, what do you want to get accomplished? I’m very big on—and whether it’s a map, or it’s a phrase, it should tell you exactly what you’re looking for and what you want, if you can. It’s always easier for the audience.
I stay away from using the word nexus, because most of the people I work with are farmers, and they’re like, ‘Why are you using that term?’ It’s just connection. They’re moving together. So, the concept, yes, the terminology, no.
4.2. Stakeholder Understandings of Food-Energy-Water Nexus Interactions
4.2.1. Food-Energy-Water Interactions
Well, I think of it as a sustainability term that is talking about integrating or looking at the economic cost—a cost-benefit analysis for all three as an integrated unit … and then, in turn, one of the beauties of a reclamation system is that that particular energy water nexus was recognized right away, so not only do you develop—that’s the word I’ve been looking for—develop water for agricultural uses, but you also create energy or generate electricity by developing the water itself. So it kind of is a little bit circular.
And in this case—with three components I think of kind of a three-dimensional production possibilities, and there are optimal points, depending on your combination. But it depends on what a society’s preferences are for each one of those. So to me it’s all tradeoffs. So you know, I’m sure that there are solutions that provide more benefit depending on the three that you choose. But I don’t think you can have everything.
4.2.2. Water-Energy Interactions
4.2.3. Water-Food Interactions
I think one topic that always seems to come up when we’re talking about food production is the use of water. And people talk about water in a desert environment as a very precious commodity. So, I think there’s going to be—it’s probably occurring already, to a certain degree. But I think there’s going to be more discussion about the use of water for agriculture and that the most appropriate use is—is the production of food the most appropriate use for or limited supply of water that we have in the Phoenix metro area as well as in Arizona? So I think that we’re going to come to a point where—as we say we want to grow more food and we want to be more self-sufficient and more sustainable, but you’re going to have the other side of that discussion coming back at us and saying, “Well, we can’t be sustainable if we’re using up our water.” At some point there’s going to be a discussion of, “How do we balance the two?” and maybe you accomplish both and hopefully keep everybody happy.
The little that I know about this is that producing food actually can clean soil. And if you limit the amount of poisonous chemicals that you put on your ground or in the food to take care of pests and all that, you will have a lot cleaner water supply. And I know that microbial remediation can make a stark difference for the quality of our soil.
4.2.4. Food-Energy Interactions
So the trade-off for having high-quality protein foods, for example, in abundance and at will—you know, we can get them whenever we want—is an excessive demand on resources and fertilizers, for example, to produce more feed, more crops, corn, that kind of thing—soybeans—that requires then more energy to produce that. So the more high-quality but animal-based foods we want, the more we stress food systems here in the US, and, of course, in developing countries like China, that’s becoming an issue too because demand for meat is growing and growing. So there are absolutely trade-offs for, like I said, on-demand access to high-quality nutritional foods.
So, the average restaurant in the United States discharges between 517 pounds of fats, oils and grease in the sewer systems annually, and fats, oils and grease is by twofold the most energy-rich organic urban waste in the world and its lost. It not only is it expensive to remove at the end of the line but it’s lost if we allow it to enter our sewage systems from restaurants and ultimately, I think there are ways that we can facilitate its removal and its recovery as an energy source and energy feedstock and I think the next 10–15 years my industry will really, really focus on that.
4.3. Stakeholder Identification and Analysis
The ADWR, which is the Department of Water Resources which is obviously a huge one and their regulatory arm. I think you have the CAP is one because they’re a major water deliverer and they kind of have that, an interesting mandate and challenges in front of them because they’re directly tied to the Colorado River. You have SRP which fills both roles, I mean they deliver water, they have power, and it’s on a different streamline than CAP is. But they are definitely a big portion of that.
Arizona Department of Water Resources. They’re the enforcers of the groundwater code. I think they have a lot of influence, the Arizona Department of Water Resources, again, because of the groundwater code and the restrictions or controls put in place through the groundwater code and the enforcement of those particular regulations. Again, the Salt River Project. The Salt River Project is a very unique organization. I think they’re referred to as a quasi-public or quasi-municipal organization. So it has a lot of independence that say for instance city governments don’t have.
I would say that agricultural businesses have a lot of interest in the governance systems, whether that’s through their ties to reclamation projects through their ties to energy contracts, even, that they’ve received a lot of preference from, and their ability to have good access to both federal, state, and local governments—all three. I would say they are major players in that nexus.
They’re (irrigation districts) the ones that usually are in many cases they have contracts for energy, so they should actually get the—you know, sometimes they’re actually acquiring the energy on the open market. But then most importantly, they’re actually moving the water. So they have real fingers in all three of those and have very close ties to all three sort of sectors. That’s the one like the bull’s eye.
4.4. Policies for the FEW Nexus
We have a Groundwater Management Act in the state of Arizona that very much is affecting how things operate. I think overall in a good way, because in the ‘60s and ‘70s a lot of the areas were relying on groundwater, overusing groundwater. So they put some management goals in those areas to make the groundwater supply more sustainable over a long period of time, which creates more security for water supplies for areas. So I would say it’s a little bit of a loose tie to energy, but certainly for water supply.
I think they need to be aware that there is a nexus, first of all. That needs to be part of our everyday—the everyday conversations amongst the stakeholders as opposed to having their blinders on and saying well we just have to worry about water and where our policies are on water. We have to start our laundry list of things to do when we’re considering new approaches and new solutions. We need to consider all three of these and I don’t think that’s happening. It is between water and energy more so, I think.
Right now, we’re kind of in the process of actually doing that, what’s happening at the state level. Part of that is when the different user groups and stakeholders come together to understand what their needs and challenges are. In the old days, we didn’t know what the cities were doing. They didn’t know and lack of knowledge creates a fear. So when you operate out of fear and a lack of understanding, sometimes you do things that aren’t coordinated … There’s much more of those different user groups coming together to understand what their needs are, because agriculture can say, “Oh, you have that particular need. We can either give or shift what we’re doing to help that, if you can help us over here.” That integrated approach is being incorporated now. Now whether there’s enough of it or not, I think it’s much, much better now than it was maybe 30 or 40 years ago because there has been—there’s more of a, “We’re in this together”, attitude that is more helpful.
There are still a lot of discussion that needs to go on. This is the first time in my career in this state as a wildlife biologist that I have seen the water managers more openly discuss the issues and potential solutions with the public. These have historically closed door, backroom deals. There’s still a lot of that, however, there’s a lot more transparency I think today than there was historically.
So, when we look at food energy and water nexus why can’t we take small steps to make the water system more resilient? Why can’t we take small steps to make energy more resilient? Same with food. It doesn’t have to be overnight, but maybe the goal is really lofty but the small steps to get there is better, I think is a much better approach on the policy side rather than let’s just do the lofty goal today. Let’s fix is slowly over time.
Overall if you’re going to look at the energy food water nexus, you have to bump it up a level. You have to bump it up to the level of state agencies, major regional wholesalers like SRP and CAP. The governor. You know. Things like that. The major regional—regional decision makers. Because it won’t occur on a municipal scale.
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|Organization||N||Nexus Sector(s)||Organization Type|
|Salt River Project||12||W, E, F||Utility Cooperative (Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association) and State Agency (Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District)|
|Central Arizona Water Conservation District||1||W, E||Municipal Corporation|
|Arizona Department of Water Resources||1||W||State Agency|
|City of Tempe||1||W, E, F||Municipal Government|
|City of Phoenix||12||W, E, F||Municipal Government|
|Arizona Municipal Water Users Association||1||W||Nonprofit Corporation|
|City of Peoria||1||W, E, F||Municipal Government|
|Lincoln Institute of Land Policy||1||W, F||Nonprofit Private Operating Foundation|
|Arizona State University||1||W, F||State of Arizona Public University|
|Audubon Society||1||W||Nonprofit Organization|
|Maricopa Stanfield Irrigation and Drainage District||1||F, W, E||Municipal Corporation|
|Arizona Cattlemen’s Association||1||F, W||Nonprofit Organization|
|Maricopa County Food System Coalition||1||F||Nonprofit Organization|
|Arizona Power Authority||1||E, W||Body Corporate and Politic of the State of Arizona|
|Queen Creek Irrigation District||1||F, W, E||Municipal Corporation|
|US Geological Survey||1||W, E||US Federal Agency|
|Agribusiness and Water Council of Arizona||1||W, E, F||Nonprofit Trade Association|
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