Amidst the growing population, urbanization, globalization, and economic growth, along with the impacts of climate change, decision-makers, stakeholders, and researchers need tools for better assessment and communication of the highly interconnected food–energy–water (FEW) nexus. This study aimed to identify critical periods for water resources management for robust decision-making for water resources management at the nexus. Using a 4610 ha agricultural watershed as a pilot site, historical data (2006–2012), scientific literature values, and SWAT model simulations were utilized to map out critical periods throughout the growing season of corn and soybeans. The results indicate that soil water deficits are primarily seen in June and July, with average deficits and surpluses ranging from −134.7 to +145.3 mm during the study period. Corresponding water quality impacts include average monthly surface nitrate-N, subsurface nitrate-N, and soluble phosphorus losses of up to 0.026, 0.26, and 0.0013 kg/ha, respectively, over the growing season. Estimated fuel requirements for the agricultural practices ranged from 24.7 to 170.3 L/ha, while estimated carbon emissions ranged from 0.3 to 2.7 kg CO2
/L. A composite look at all the FEW nexus elements showed that critical periods for water management in the study watershed occurred in the early and late season—primarily related to water quality—and mid-season, related to water quantity. This suggests the need to adapt agricultural and other management practices across the growing season in line with the respective water management needs. The FEW nexus assessment methodologies developed in this study provide a framework in which spatial, temporal, and literature data can be implemented for improved water resources management in other areas.
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