Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Florence, South Carolina » Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #240022

Title: Managing water resources for biomass production in a biofuel economy

item Stone, Kenneth - Ken
item Hunt, Patrick
item Cantrell, Keri
item Ro, Kyoung

Submitted to: Proceedings of American Chemical Society National Meeting
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/27/2009
Publication Date: 8/16/2009
Citation: Stone, K.C., Hunt, P.G., Cantrell, K.B., Ro, K.S. 2009. Managing water resources for biomass production in a biofuel economy. In: Fuel Chemistry Preprints of the American Chemical Society National Meeting, August 16-20, 2009, Washington, DC. 54(2):1016-1017. 2009 CDROM

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: One goal of our national security policy is to become more energy independent using biofuels. The expanded production of agricultural crops for bioenergy production has introduced new challenges for management of water. Water availability has been widely presumed in the discussion of bioenergy crop production. However, water is a limited resource and many parts of the world are experiencing water scarcities complicated by a growing population. Southeastern US agriculture can greatly contribute to biofuels with our usually favorable climate. However, recent droughts have magnified competition with urban areas for available water resources. Annually, many states in the southeastern US receive greater then 1100 mm of rainfall. The summer months usually have the greatest monthly rainfall from thunderstorms averaging approximately 120 mm per month. However, thunderstorms are highly variable spatially. Previous research has shown that droughts during the growing season have a 50% probability of exceeding 20 days. Biofuel crops would need to be grown with these water limitations taken into consideration. Irrigation would be required to reduce the impact of these short-term droughts and to produce a steady, reliable stream of crops for sustainable biofuel production. As new technologies for cellulosic conversion of biomass for ethanol production are demonstrated and improved, alternative biomass crops can be used for bioenergy. Furthermore, thermochemical conversion utilizing a wider variety of feedstocks for bioenergy may emerge as a more sustainable option. With the projected increase in Global population and competition for water resources among urban, industrial, economic, and environmental sectors, water needs to be incorporated into discussions and decisions related to the implementation and technology for bioenergy.