Skip to main content

The future evolution of energy-water-agriculture interconnectivity across the US

Back to All Publications

Abstract: Energy, water, and agricultural resources across the globe are highly interconnected. This interconnectivity poses science challenges, such as understanding and modeling interconnections, as well as practical challenges, such as efficiently managing interdependent resource systems. Using the US as an example, this study seeks to define and explore how interconnectivity evolves over space and time under a range of influences. Concepts from graph theory and input–output analysis are used to visualize and quantify key intersectoral linkages using two new indices: the 'Interconnectivity Magnitude Index' and the 'Interconnectivity Spread Index'. Using the Global Change Analysis Model (GCAM-USA), we explore the future evolution of these indices under four scenarios that explore a range of forces, including socioeconomic and technological change. Analysis is conducted at both national and state level spatial scales from 2015 to 2100. Results from a Reference scenario show that resource interconnectivity in the US is primarily driven by water use amongst different sectors, while changes in interconnectivity are driven by a decoupling of the water and electricity systems, as power plants become more water-efficient over time. High population and GDP growth results in relatively more decoupling of sectors, as a larger share of water and energy is used outside of interconnected sector feedback loops. Lower socioeconomic growth results in the opposite trend. Transitioning to a low-carbon economy increases interconnectivity because of the expansion of purpose-grown biomass, which strengthens the connections between water and energy. The results highlight that while some regions may experience similar sectoral stress projections, the composition of the intersectoral connectivity leading to that sectoral stress may call for distinctly different multi-sector co-management strategies. The methodology we introduce here can be applied in diverse geographical and sectoral contexts to enable better understanding of where, when, and how coupling or decoupling between sectors could evolve and be better managed.

View All Publications