Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bioenergy Makes Heavy Demands On Scarce Water Supplies

Date:
June 4, 2009
Source:
University of Twente
Summary:
The ‘water footprint’ of bioenergy, i.e. the amount of water required to cultivate crops for biomass, is much greater than for other forms of energy. The generation of bioelectricity is significantly more water-efficient in the end, however – by a factor of two – than the production of biofuel. By establishing the water footprint for thirteen crops, researchers were able to make an informed choice of a specific crop and production region.

The ‘water footprint’ of bioenergy, i.e. the amount of water required to cultivate crops for biomass, is much greater than for other forms of energy. The generation of bioelectricity is significantly more water-efficient in the end, however – by a factor of two – than the production of biofuel. By establishing the water footprint for thirteen crops, researchers at the University of Twente were able to make an informed choice of a specific crop and production region. They published their results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of 2 June.

In their article, the researchers show the water footprint of thirteen crops: the volume of water – rainwater and irrigation – required per gigajoule of energy production. In respect of various applications of biomass, the researchers present the impact that cultivation of the crops has on water consumption. By linking the water consumption to the location and climate data, it is possible to select the optimum production region for each crop. This makes it easier to prevent biomass cultivation from jeopardizing food production in regions where water is already in short supply, according to the researchers.

This lends an extra dimension to the bioenergy debate: until now, the discussion has mainly focused on the question of whether it should be allowed to use food crops for fuel. But underlying this is the question of how we should deploy our limited supplies of fresh water. Water that is used for bioenergy – whether it be for a food crop such as maize or a non-food crop such as jatropha – cannot be used for food production, for drinking water or for maintaining natural eco-systems. The water footprint, developed by Prof. Arjen Hoekstra, one of the authors of the PNAS article, is a powerful tool for surveying this.

1 litre of diesel, 14,000 litres of water

An example is biodiesel, which is made from rapeseed, soya or jatropha. On average, it takes 14,000 litres of water to produce one litre of biodiesel from rapeseed or soya. However, the water footprint for rapeseed in Western Europe is significantly smaller than in Asia. For soya, India has a large water footprint, while the figures for countries such as Italy and Paraguay are more favourable. Jatropha, which is increasingly used for biomass production, has an even less favourable water footprint of 20,000 litres of water on average for one litre of biodiesel.

Whole plant

The research shows that generation of bioelectricity has a smaller water footprint than the production of biofuels. A significant cause is that in the case of the former, the whole plant is used and in the case of the latter, only the sugar, starch or oil from the seeds is used. As regards the new generation of biofuels, ethanol can also be made from the stalk and leaves; this will have a favourable effect on the water consumption.

Sugar beet a favourite

In the generation of bioelectricity, too, there are big differences between the crops: sugar beet has by far the smallest water footprint – jatropha is 10 times less water-efficient. For the production of bioethanol, sugar beet is again by far the favourite: one litre of bioethanol made from sugar beet takes 1,400 litres of water, as against 2,500 litres for sugarcane, which is widely cultivated in Brazil.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Twente. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Twente. "Bioenergy Makes Heavy Demands On Scarce Water Supplies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 June 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090603091737.htm>.
University of Twente. (2009, June 4). Bioenergy Makes Heavy Demands On Scarce Water Supplies. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090603091737.htm
University of Twente. "Bioenergy Makes Heavy Demands On Scarce Water Supplies." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090603091737.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) The United Nations says water is a human right, but should it be free? Detroit has cut off water to residents who can't pay, and the U.N. isn't happy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Suni, a rare northern white rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, died Friday. This, as many media have pointed out, leaves people fearing extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins