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Title: Food, Energy, and Water Production Within Watersheds of the United States

The production of food, electricity, and treated water is often tracked and managed along political or infrastructure boundaries. Yet, water resources, a critical input in the production of these goods, are delineated along natural landscape features (i.e., watersheds). The boundary mismatch between water resources and the associated production of economic goods conceals hydrologic dependencies and vulnerabilities in the provisioning of Food‐Energy‐Water (FEW) resources. In this study, we pair economic, infrastructure, and hydrologic data to evaluate the production of food, electricity, and treated water within watersheds of the conterminous United States. The US FEW sectors produced 950 million tonnes of crops, 3,973 million MWh of electricity, and supplied water to 263 million people in 2017. FEW production consumed 128 km3of blue water (18%) and 583 km3of green water (82%). Watersheds in central and southern California, the Midwest, and the Southwest have the largest FEW blue water consumption and the greatest exposure to water stress. Nearly three‐fifths of FEW production occurs in regularly water‐stressed watersheds. FEW production in watersheds in the Great Plains and Midwest relies heavily on groundwater to buffer against intra‐ and inter‐annual streamflow variability, while surface reservoir storage buffers against water shortages in all watersheds. We show where FEW production may be susceptible to curtailments due to ongoing groundwater depletion or known infrastructure deficiencies. This study adds to our understanding of how a nation's water resources and associated infrastructure support economic activity, as well as areas where economic activity is exposed to hydrological and infrastructure risks.

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Award ID(s):
2144169 2115405
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Water Resources Research
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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