Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Web tool successfully measures farms’ water footprint

Date:
March 20, 2014
Source:
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Summary:
Enter some data into a computer and you'll find out how much water farms use. The global implications of this study include the consequences of water sent overseas. This includes water used to grow crops and commodities made from water. The WaterFootprint tool can help not just growers, but world water managers as well, the authors say.

A new University of Florida web-based tool worked well during its trial run to measure water consumption at farms in four Southern states, according to a study published this month.

The system measures the so-called "water footprint" of a farm. In the broader sense, water footprints account for the amount of water used to grow or create almost everything we eat, drink, wear or otherwise use.

Researchers at UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences introduced their WaterFootprint tool in the March issue of the journal Agricultural Systems, after using it to calculate water consumption at farms in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. The WaterFootprint is part of the AgroClimate system, developed by Clyde Fraisse, a UF associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering. AgroClimate is a web resource, aimed primarily at agricultural producers, that includes interactive tools and data for reducing agricultural risks.

WaterFootprint, developed primarily by Daniel Dourte, a research associate in agricultural and biological engineering, estimates water use in crop production across the U.S. WaterFootprint looks at a farm in a specific year or growing season and gives you its water footprint, Dourte said. With UF's WaterFootprint system, users provide their location by ZIP code, the crop, planting and harvesting dates, yield, soil type, tillage and water management.

The tool also retrieves historical weather data and uses it to estimate the blue and green water footprints of crop production, Dourte said. Water footprints separate water use into green, which is rainfall; blue, from a freshwater resource; and gray, an accounting of water quality, after it's been polluted.

Water footprints can be viewed at the farm level or globally. For instance, if irrigation water is used to grow crops, it is essentially exported, Dourte said.

Once products are shipped overseas, the water used to grow the commodity goes with it, and it may not return for a long time -- if ever, Dourte said. That's a problem if the crop is grown in a region where water is scarce, he said.

But there's often a tradeoff, he said. Global food trade saves billions of gallons of water each year, as food is exported from humid, temperate places to drier locales that would have used much more water to grow crops, Dourte said.

"The U.S. is a big agricultural producer. Products are exported and along with them, water goes to other countries," he said.

For example, if you're growing soybeans, you're indirectly sending the water that was used to grow the crop. That amounts to about 270 gallons per pound of soybeans, Dourte said. In addition to soybeans, coffee beans and shirts, if made from cotton, consume lots of water from the growing process to processing to shipping -- with most of that water consumption resulting from evaporation and transpiration during crop growth, he said. But understanding the type of water resource being consumed, whether it's from rainfall or irrigation, makes all the difference in assessing water resource sustainability. Dourte co-authored the study with Fraisse and Oxana Uryasev, a UF research associate in agricultural and biological engineering.

The WaterFootprint tool can help not just growers, but world water managers as well, he said.

"We think this farm-specific, time-specific water footprinting tool is a unique resource that could be used by resource managers and educators to consider water resource sustainability in the context of agricultural production," Dourte said. "We usually think of water management locally and regionally. But when you're accounting for the water footprint of agricultural products, it allows you to see the global nature of that water." UF's WaterFootprint calculator can be found at http://agroclimate.org/tools/Water-Footprint/.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Daniel R. Dourte, Clyde W. Fraisse, Oxana Uryasev. WaterFootprint on AgroClimate: A dynamic, web-based tool for comparing agricultural systems. Agricultural Systems, 2014; 125: 33 DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2013.11.006

Cite This Page:

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "Web tool successfully measures farms’ water footprint." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140320100516.htm>.
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (2014, March 20). Web tool successfully measures farms’ water footprint. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140320100516.htm
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "Web tool successfully measures farms’ water footprint." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140320100516.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Driving Sports (July 24, 2014) Subaru Rally Team USA drivers David Higgins and Travis Pastrana face off against a global contingent of racers at the annual Mt. Washington Hillclimb in New Hampshire. Includes exclusive in-car footage from Higgins' record attempt. Video provided by Driving Sports
Powered by NewsLook.com
Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) A likely tornado tears through an eastern Virginia campground, killing three and injuring at least 20. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:
from the past week

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