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Water Implications of Biofuels Production in the United States
Statement of Task
The Water Science and Technology Board will conduct a colloquium and produce a short consensus report (and a “derivative” dissemination product in the form of a brochure) that airs and addresses key water quality, water quantity, and related land resources implications of biofuel production in the United States. The following issues will be addressed:
How much water and land might be required to grow different kinds of biomass in different regions? Where is water availability likely to be a limiting factor?
What are the possible, or likely, water quality effects associated with increases in production of different kinds of biomass?
What promising agricultural practices and technologies might help reduce water use or minimize water pollution associated with biomass production?
What are the water requirements of existing and proposed production plants, and what water quality problems may be associated with them?
What policy, regulatory, and legal changes might help address some of these water-use and water quality issues?
federal and state government, non-governmental organizations, academia, and industry. WSTB established a committee to organize and host the colloquium and to develop this report (see Box S-1). This report draws some conclusions about the water implications of biofuels productions based on discussions at the colloquium, written submissions of participants, the peer-reviewed literature, and the best professional judgments of the committee.
KEY ISSUES REGARDING WATER RESOURCES
Water is an increasingly precious resource used for many purposes including drinking and other municipal uses, hydropower, cooling thermoelectric plants, manufacturing, recreation, habitat for fish and wildlife, and agriculture. The ways in which a shift to growing more energy crops will affect the availability and quality of water is a complex issue that is difficult to monitor and will vary greatly by region.
In some areas of the country, water resources already are significantly stressed. For example, large portions of the Ogallala (or High Plains) aquifer, which extends from west Texas up into South Dakota and Wyoming, show water table declines of over 100 feet. Deterioration in water quality may