A new University of Florida web-based tool worked well during its trial run to measure water consumption at farms in four Southern states, according to a study published this month.
The system measures the so-called “water footprint” of a farm. In the broader sense, water footprints account for the amount of water used to grow or create almost everything we eat, drink, wear or otherwise use.
Researchers at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences introduced their WaterFootprint tool in the March issue of the journal Agricultural Systems, after using it to calculate water consumption at farms in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Texas.
The WaterFootprint is part of the AgroClimate system, developed by Clyde Fraisse, a UF associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering. AgroClimate is a web resource, aimed primarily at agricultural producers, that includes interactive tools and data for reducing agricultural risks.
WaterFootprint, developed primarily by Daniel Dourte, a research associate in agricultural and biological engineering, estimates water use in crop production across the U.S.
WaterFootprint looks at a farm in a specific year or growing season and gives you its water footprint, Dourte said. With UF’s WaterFootprint system, users provide their location by ZIP code, the crop, planting and harvesting dates, yield, soil type, tillage and water management.
The tool also retrieves historical weather data and uses it to estimate the blue and green water footprints of crop production, Dourte said. Water footprints separate water use into green, which is rainfall; blue, from a freshwater resource; and gray, an accounting of water quality, after it’s been polluted.
Water footprints can be viewed at the farm level or globally.
For instance, if irrigation water is used to grow crops, it is essentially exported, Dourte said.
Once products are shipped overseas, the water used to grow the commodity goes with it, and it may not return for a long time – if ever, Dourte said. That’s a problem if the crop is grown in a region where water is scarce, he said.
But there’s often a tradeoff, he said. Global food trade saves billions of gallons of water each year, as food is exported from humid, temperate places to drier locales that would have used much more water to grow crops, Dourte said.
“The U.S. is a big agricultural producer. Products are exported and along with them, water goes to other countries,” he said.
For example, if you’re growing soybeans, you’re indirectly sending the water that was used to grow the crop. That amounts to about 270 gallons per pound of soybeans, Dourte said.
In addition to soybeans, coffee beans and shirts, if made from cotton, consume lots of water from the growing process to processing to shipping – with most of that water consumption resulting from evaporation and transpiration during crop growth, he said. But understanding the type of water resource being consumed, whether it’s from rainfall or irrigation, makes all the difference in assessing water resource sustainability.
Dourte co-authored the study with Fraisse and Oxana Uryasev, a UF research associate in agricultural and biological engineering.
The WaterFootprint tool can help not just growers, but world water managers as well, he said.
“We think this farm-specific, time-specific water footprinting tool is a unique resource that could be used by resource managers and educators to consider water resource sustainability in the context of agricultural production,” Dourte said. “We usually think of water management locally and regionally. But when you’re accounting for the water footprint of agricultural products, it allows you to see the global nature of that water.”
UF’s WaterFootprint calculator can be found at http://agroclimate.org/tools/Water-Footprint/.
Brad Buck | newswise
Increasingly severe disturbances weaken world's temperate forests
31.08.2015 | USDA Forest Service - Pacific Southwest Research Station
Sequencing of barley genome achieves new milestone
26.08.2015 | University of California - Riverside
China's Loess Plateau was formed by wind alternately depositing dust or removing dust over the last 2.6 million years, according to a new report from University of Arizona geoscientists. The study is the first to explain how the steep-fronted plateau formed.
China's Loess Plateau was formed by wind alternately depositing dust or removing dust over the last 2.6 million years, according to a new report from...
The leaves of the lotus flower, and other natural surfaces that repel water and dirt, have been the model for many types of engineered liquid-repelling surfaces. As slippery as these surfaces are, however, tiny water droplets still stick to them. Now, Penn State researchers have developed nano/micro-textured, highly slippery surfaces able to outperform these naturally inspired coatings, particularly when the water is a vapor or tiny droplets.
Enhancing the mobility of liquid droplets on rough surfaces could improve condensation heat transfer for power-plant heat exchangers, create more efficient...
Longer, more severe, and hotter droughts and a myriad of other threats, including diseases and more extensive and severe wildfires, are threatening to transform some of the world's temperate forests, a new study published in Science has found. Without informed management, some forests could convert to shrublands or grasslands within the coming decades.
"While we have been trying to manage for resilience of 20th century conditions, we realize now that we must prepare for transformations and attempt to ease...
A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist and his Chinese collaborator have found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
The discovery of two supermassive black holes--one larger one and a second, smaller one--are evidence of a binary black hole and suggests that supermassive...
A team of European researchers have developed a model to simulate the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and applied it to the Eastern Mediterranean. The results show how tsunami waves could hit and inundate coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. The study is published today (27 August) in Ocean Science, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
Though not as frequent as in the Pacific and Indian oceans, tsunamis also occur in the Mediterranean, mainly due to earthquakes generated when the African...
20.08.2015 | Event News
20.08.2015 | Event News
19.08.2015 | Event News
02.09.2015 | Physics and Astronomy
02.09.2015 | Trade Fair News
02.09.2015 | Life Sciences