What factors drive the changes in water withdrawals in the U.S. Agriculture and food manufacturing industries between 1995 and 2010?

Andre F. T. Avelino, Sandy Dall'erba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Climate change and increasing world population will directly impact the global food supply chain linkages. In the United States, agricultural production requires less irrigated water than before but it still accounts for a third of total water withdrawals. To better understand the evolution of its water use, we perform a structural decomposition analysis of water withdrawals across eight different crops and six livestock categories and differentiate the trends over 1995-2005 vs 2005-2010 to account for the role of the economic crisis in the second period. Based on USGS data, the results show that both periods experienced an overall decline in water withdrawals in the production of all crops except oilseeds. This trend is driven by a decrease in water intensity, reflecting greater efficiency of irrigation systems, and by reduced local per capita income in the second period. However, increased foreign demand for water-intensive sectors like oilseeds from NAFTA and Asian partners mitigated the decline. Results indicate also a decreasing water use in livestock production partially due to a shift from red to white meat consumption in the country. Arguably, recent tariff wars and border closures have greatly reduced the virtual water embodied in American exports.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10421-10434
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume54
Issue number17
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

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