A metropolitan scale water management analysis of the food-energy-water nexus

Xin Guan, Giuseppe Mascaro, David Sampson, Ross Maciejewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Quantifying the interactions of the food-energy-water (FEW) nexus is crucial to support new policies for the conjunctive management of the three resources. Currently, our understanding of FEW systems in metropolitan regions is limited. Here, we quantify and model FEW interactions in the metropolitan area of Phoenix, Arizona, using the Water Evaluation and Planning (WEAP) platform. In this region, the FEW nexus has changed over the last thirty years due to a dramatic population growth and a sharp decline of cultivated land. We first thoroughly test the ability of WEAP to simulate water allocation to the municipal, agricultural, industrial, power plant, and Indian sectors against historical (1985–2009) data. We then apply WEAP under possible future (2010–2069) scenarios of water and energy demand and supply, as well as food production. We find that, if the current decreasing trend of agricultural water demand continues in the future, groundwater use will diminish by ~23% and this would likely result in aquifer safe-yield and reduce the energy demand for water. If agricultural activities decrease at a lower rate or a multidecadal drought occurs, additional (from 7% to 33%) water from energy-intensive sources will be needed. This will compromise the ability to reach safe-yield and increase energy demand for water up to 15%. In contrast, increasing the fraction of energy produced by solar power plants will likely guarantee safe-yield and reduce energy demand of 2%. This last solution, based on an expanded renewable portfolio and current trends of municipal and agricultural water demand, is also projected to have the most sustainable impacts on the three resources. Our analytical approach to model FEW interconnectivities quantitatively supports stakeholder engagement and could be transferable to other metropolitan regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number134478
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jan 20 2020


  • Analytical modeling
  • Food-energy-water (FEW) nexus
  • Metropolitan region
  • Sustainable water management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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