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Biofuels And Their Effects On Water Resources

2034 words - 8 pages

Biofuels and Their Effects on Water Resources
Due to desires to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, the increasing concerns of trade balances and geopolitics, as well as the growing rise of the price of crude oil, nations worldwide are taking bigger steps in establishing sustainable energy alternatives [1]. In order to meet more sustainable energy needs there has been an increase in the demand of biofuels. With this increase in demand comes the increase demand of water, which is already a limiting factor in food production in many parts of the world. Here I explore the effects of biofuel production on water sources, and how biofuels can possibly remediate degraded water resources. Although the increase production of biofuels can further exacerbate already scarce water, sustainable energy produced from biomass has a great potential to use sources of water that are considered unsuitable for consumption. The sustainability of biofuel production through the use of marginal lands can be improved through the use of degraded water resources. Nitrate contaminated ground water, as well as other degraded water resources have the potential to be used for feed stock productivity [2]. This can also lead to the restoration of contaminated water resources.
Water is a finite resource that plays an important role in all aspects of human life. However the demands of water supply are increasing due to population increase, economic activity, and the impacts of climate change [2]. It is estimated that about 1.2 billion people in the global population live in areas where water is scarce [1]. Approximately 7130 km3 of water is evapotranspirated by crops per year worldwide, biofuel crops account for an additional 100 km3 of water that is evapotranspirated[1]. Water requirements for the growth of biofuels varies depending on the type of crops being grown, the location where the crops are grown, as well as how the crops are managed [2]. Traditional irrigation requires energy for pumping and is likely to further exacerbate water table decline in certain regions. Irrigation withdrawals amount to 2,630 km3 of water table reduction per year globally, biofuel crops account for 44 km3 of water table reduction [1]. On average it takes about 2,500 liters of crop evapotranspiration and 820 liters of irrigation water withdrawn to produce just one liter of biofuel. Biofuel crops, such as sugar, are water exhausting and often produced under monoculture which leads to increased water scarcity and water pollution. Water for biofuels will add pressure on water resources that are already stressed [1]. China withdraws on average 2,400 liters of irrigation water to produce the amount of maize needed for one liter of ethanol. Thus, around 2% of total irrigation withdrawals in China are for biofuel crop production. On the other hand, Brazil yields more than 6,200 ha -1 bioethanol because of their high sugarcane yields and conversion efficiency. As opposed to India where conversion...

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