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.

Related Articles


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 30, 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 30, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Mudslide in Sri Lanka Buries Houses

Deadly Mudslide in Sri Lanka Buries Houses

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) A mudslide triggered by monsoon rains buried scores of workers' houses at a tea plantation in central Sri Lanka on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people and leaving more than 250 missing, an official said. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Galapagos Tortoises Bounce Back, But Ecosystem Lags

Galapagos Tortoises Bounce Back, But Ecosystem Lags

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) The Galapagos tortoise has made a stupendous recovery from the brink of extinction to a population of more than 1,000. But it still faces threats. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Saharan Solar Project to Power Europe

Saharan Solar Project to Power Europe

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 29, 2014) A solar energy project in the Tunisian Sahara aims to generate enough clean energy by 2018 to power two million European homes. Matt Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Surrounded by health care workers in the White House East Room, President Barack Obama said the U.S. will likely see additional Ebola cases in the weeks ahead. But he said the nation can't seal itself off in the fight against the disease. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
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