Energy Development under Water Scarcity and Climate Change


The availability of water and access to water has dictated civilizations’ choices throughout human history. Historically, primary sources of water came through rainfall and surface water; while in the modern era, technology has provided opportunities to exploit underground water sources for use in irrigation, consumption, and industry. The availability of water dictates the viability of food resources and supports food production on large scales. In addition to food, water is intricately intertwined with the production, transportation, and use of most forms of energy, including shale oil and gas.

Looking to the future, climate change will impact water resources through anticipated shifts in the patterns of rainfall and water availability. Such a change has the potential to significantly impact competition for water, particularly in the Southwest United States.


To better manage our resources, we must gain a more complete understanding of the interdependence between water, energy, and food. Known as water-energy-food (WEF) nexus, a mastery of the relationships between these resources has the potential to strategically inform policy and planning, protect regions from vulnerability, and provide solutions for problems that currently exist or may arise.

Mohtar-WEF_1The WEF nexus is complex, and there are many variables that are difficult to predict. Existing studies have looked at the role and impact of the WEF nexus on the development of energy, land use, urban growth, and water policies, but few explore the trade-offs and synergies at regional or national levels, and there has been little consideration for the nexus and the impact of climate variability on water supplies.

Dr. Rabi H. Mohtar, a TEES Endowed Professor in the Departments of Biological & Agricultural Engineering and Civil Engineering, along with Dr. Bruce A. McCarl, a Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics, will address these challenges in a new case study in the San Antonio, Texas region. Focusing on understanding the WEF nexus in the context of population growth, climate change, and developing scientific breakthroughs, the pair will address the interrelations of water, food, and energy, and the potential benefits for regional planning and coordination.

Mohtar and McCarl will work with the Texas Water Development Board, municipal utilities, agricultural data sources, counties, organizations, and corporations to collect data and build a database for water, energy, population, industrial growth, and food systems in the San Antonio area. Combining McCarl’s resources on economic forecasts and climate change trends and with population growth information, this data will be used to generate the initial analysis protocol for the tradeoffs between the proposed future scenarios. Using Mohtar’s existing Water-Energy-Food Nexus online platform at and existing work in the South Central Texas region, Mohtar and McCarl will develop a more comprehensive tool for scenario development and trade-off analysis.

For more information:

Rabi Mohtar – TEES Endowed Professor in Biological and Agricultural Engineering –

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