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Evaluation of the Food-Energy-Water nexus through case studies in the United States and East Africa

posted on 09.02.2022, 22:01 by Jorge Izar TenorioJorge Izar Tenorio
The demand for systems and infrastructure that can equitably and efficiently provide food, energy, and water is central to economic development and sustainable growth. Diverse conditions such as growing population, climate change, and access constraints pose a formidable challenge for industrialized and non-industrialized countries. Industrialized countries’ food and energy systems face the threat of unsustainable practices and competition for resources from multiple productive sectors. Meanwhile, the least developed countries struggle with inadequate access to modern agricultural, water, and energy technologies to provide food efficiently and securely. This thesis aims to identify and quantify food production impacts on energy and water consumption via case studies in the United States and East Africa. In both cases, I use integrated biophysical models to estimate the effects of food production (e.g., chicken broiler meat and irrigated crop yields) on energy and water resources consumption using climatological data inputs. For the case study in East Africa, I also assessed the financial viability of pressurized irrigation on a subnational level. Findings suggest that projected future climate change temperatures by mid-century will increase energy demand for cooling, reduce energy demand for heating, and substantially increase water withdrawals for evaporative cooling for industrial chicken broiler production in the Eastern U.S. The results for the case in East Africa indicate that the techno-economic potential of small-scale pressurized irrigation is highest for horticulture, maize, and potato crops grown with improved seeds and at least moderate fertility levels. My results suggest that food production impacts on energy and water demand are climate and site (or geography) dependent. These factors' relative importance depends on operational practices (e.g., input selection), technology types and costs, and fuel prices.




Degree Type



Engineering and Public Policy

Degree Name

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Paulina Jaramillo