After the Sun: Energy Use in Blue v. Green Water for Agriculture

Jenny R. Kehl


The purpose of this article is to highlight the difference in energy consumption between using blue water versus green water for agriculture in areas where water-intensive crops are grown in water-scarce regions. It focuses on water and energy consumption for greening the desert in United States, the world’s largest grain producer. The analysis is limited to the three largest crops by volume and value; corn, cotton, and wheat, which generate billions of dollars for the economy and use billions of gallons of water each day. The primary methodology is to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to visually represent the comparative amounts of blue water and green water used to grow water-intensive crops in water-scarce regions, by statistically mapping levels of water stress overlaid with the amounts of blue water versus green water used. It exposes where energy-intensive water practices are occurring due to a high dependence on blue water for irrigation in agriculture. The article concludes by discussing strategies to improve energy efficiency and reduce the vulnerabilities associated with overdependence on blue water such as high energy costs, low energy security, and susceptibility to aquifer reduction and ground water depletion.

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