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  1. Abstract

    Under the risk of drought, unreliable water supplies, and growing water demand, there is a growing need worldwide to explore alternative water sources to meet the demand for irrigation in agriculture and other outdoor activities. This paper estimates stocks, production capacities, economic costs, energy implications, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with recycled water, desalinated brackish and seawater, and stormwater in California, the largest US state and the most significant fresh and processed food producer. The combined recycled water and stormwater supply could increase the share of alternative water use in urban land irrigation (parks and golf courses) from the current rate of 4.6% to 48% and in agriculture from 0.82% to 5.4% while increasing annual water costs by $900 million (1.8% of California’s annual agricultural revenue) and energy use by 710 GWh (0.28% of California’s annual electricity consumption). The annual supply of alternative water greatly exceeds the amount of water currently used in the food processing industry. In case studies of high-value agricultural produce, conventional water use was found to contribute approximately 17%, 12%, 4.1%, and 1.7% to the total GHG emissions of avocados, lemons, celery, and strawberries, respectively. However, materials (mostly packaging) contribute 46%, 26%, 47%, andmore »66%, and diesel use on farms 18%, 28%, and 14% for lemons, celery, and strawberries, respectively (data for avocados were not available). Switching to recycled water or stormwater would increase the total GHG emissions of one serving size of packaged strawberries, celery, lemons, and avocados by 3.0%, 7.8%, 11%, and 27%, respectively, desalinated brackish water by 23%, 58%, 150%, and 210%, and desalinated seawater by 35%, 88%, 230%, and 320%. Though switching to alternative water will increase costs, energy demand, and GHG emissions, they could be offset by turning to less environmentally damaging materials in agricultural production and sales (especially packaging).

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  2. Abstract

    Integrated management of food–energy–water systems (FEWS) requires a unified, flexible and reproducible approach to incorporate the interdependence between sectors, and include the risk of non-stationary environmental variations due to climate change. Most of the recently developed methods in the literature fall short of one or more aspects in such integration. In this article, we propose a novel approach based upon fundamentals of decision theory and reinforcement learning that (1) quantifies and propagates uncertainty, (2) incorporates resource interdependence, (3) includes the impact of uncontrolled variables such as climate variations, and (4) adaptively optimizes management decisions to minimize the costs and environmental impacts of crop production. Moreover, the proposed method is robust to problem-specific complexities and is easily reproducible. We illustrate the framework on a real-world case study in Ventura County, California.

  3. Abstract Environmental merits are a common motivation for many urban agriculture (UA) projects. One powerful way of quantifying environmental impacts is with life cycle assessment (LCA): a method that estimates the environmental impacts of producing, using, and disposing of a good. LCAs of UA have proliferated in recent years, evaluating a diverse range of UA systems and generating mixed conclusions about their environmental performance. To clarify the varied literature, we performed a systematic review of LCAs of UA to answer the following questions: What is the scope of available LCAs of UA (geographic, crop choice, system type)? What is the environmental performance and resource intensity of diverse forms of UA? How have these LCAs been done, and does the quality and consistency allow the evidence to support decision making? We searched for original, peer-reviewed LCAs of agricultural production at UA systems, and selected and evaluated 47 papers fitting our analysis criteria, covering 88 different farms and 259 production systems. Focusing on yield, water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and cumulative energy demand, using functional units based on mass of crops grown and land occupied, we found a wide range of results. We summarized baseline ranges, identified trends across UA profiles, andmore »highlighted the most impactful parts of different systems. There were examples of all types of systems—across physical set up, crop type, and socio-economic orientation—achieving low and high impacts and yields, and performing better or worse than conventional agriculture. However, issues with the quality and consistency of the LCAs, the use of conventional agriculture data in UA settings, and the high variability in their results prevented us from drawing definitive conclusions about the environmental impacts and resource use of UA. We provided guidelines for improving LCAs of UA, and make a strong case that more research on this topic is necessary to improve our understanding of the environmental impacts and benefits of UA.« less
  4. Climate change, drought, and chronic overdraft represent growing threats to the sustainability of water supplies in dry environments. The Monterey/Salinas region in California exemplifies a new era of integrated or “one water” management that is using all of the water it can get to achieve more sustainable supplies to benefit cities, agriculture, and the environment. This program is the first of its kind to reuse a variety of waters including wastewater, stormwater, food industry processing water, and agricultural drainage water. This study investigates the partnerships, projects, and innovations that shape Monterey’s integrated water network in order to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing California communities as they seek to sustainably manage peri-urban water supplies. Water reuse in the Monterey region produces substantial economic and environmental benefits, from tourism and irrigation of high-value crops to protection of groundwater and increases in environmental flows and water quality. Water resource managers in other communities can learn from Monterey’s success leveraging local needs and regional partnerships to develop effective integrated water solutions. However, key challenges remain in resolving mismatched timing between water availability and demand, funding alternative water supplies, and planning effectively under uncertainty. Opportunities exist to increase Monterey’s recycled water supply bymore »up to 50%, but this requires investment in seasonal storage and depends on whether desalination or additional recycling forms the next chapter in the region’s water supply story. Regulatory guidance is needed on seasonal subsurface storage of tertiary-treated recycled water as distinct from potable recharge. By increasing the supply of recycled water to Monterey’s indirect potable use system, the region’s potential need for seawater desalination may be delayed as much as 30 years, resulting in cost and energy savings, and giving the opportunity to resolve present planning concerns.« less