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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2015

Bioenergy Development Policy and Practice Must Recognize Potential Hydrologic Impacts: Lessons from the Americas

Watkins, David W., Jr.; Alcoforado de Moraes, Marcia M. G.; Asbjornsen, Heidi; Mayer, Alex S.; Licata, Julian; Lopez, Jose Gutierrez; Pypker, Thomas G.; Molina, Vivianna Gamez; Marques, Guilherme Fernandes; Guimaraes Carneiro, Ana Cristina; Nunez, Hector M.; Onal, Hayri; Germano, Bruna da Nobrega


Large-scale bioenergy production will affect the hydrologic cycle in multiple ways, including changes in canopy interception, evapotranspiration, infiltration, and the quantity and quality of surface runoff and groundwater recharge. As such, the water footprints of bioenergy sources vary significantly by type of feedstock, soil characteristics, cultivation practices, and hydro-climatic regime. Furthermore, water management implications of bioenergy production depend on existing land use, relative water availability, and competing water uses at a watershed scale. This paper reviews previous research on the water resource impacts of bioenergy production-from plot-scale hydrologic and nutrient cycling impacts to watershed and regional scale hydro-economic systems relationships. Primary gaps in knowledge that hinder policy development for integrated management of water-bioenergy systems are highlighted. Four case studies in the Americas are analyzed to illustrate relevant spatial and temporal scales for impact assessment, along with unique aspects of biofuel production compared to other agroforestry systems, such as energy-related conflicts and tradeoffs. Based on the case studies, the potential benefits of integrated resource management are assessed, as is the need for further case-specific research.


Second-generation biofuels; Eco-hydrology; Water quality; Integrated assessment; Hydro-economic modeling

Published in

Environmental Management
2015, volume: 56, number: 6, pages: 1295-1314

Authors' information

Watkins, David W.
Michigan Technological University
Alcoforado de Moraes, Marcia M. G.
Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
Asbjornsen, Heidi
University of New Hampshire
Mayer, Alex S.
Michigan Technological University
Licata, Julian
Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia Agropecuaria (INTA)
University of New Hampshire
Lopez, Jose Gutierrez
University of New Hampshire
Pypker, Thomas G.
Thompson Rivers University
Molina, Vivianna Gamez
Arizona State University
Marques, Guilherme Fernandes
Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul
Guimaraes Carneiro, Ana Cristina
Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
Nunez, Hector M.
Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas A.C. (CIDE)
Onal, Hayri
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Germano, Bruna da Nobrega
Universidade Federal de Pernambuco

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG7 Affordable and clean energy
SDG6 Clean water
SDG13 Climate action

UKÄ Subject classification

Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources
Environmental Sciences

Publication Identifiers


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