Future of Energy and Minnesota Water Resources

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2009 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund
University of Minnesota
Recipient Type
Public College/University
Start Date
July 2008
End Date
June 2010
Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2008, Chp. 367, Sec. 2, Subd. 04a
Appropriation Language

$270,000 is from the trust fund to the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota to spatially model water demand in Minnesota under differing energy production scenarios and develop a Web-based tool for comparing policy scenarios impacts on water resources in the state.

2009 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Project Overview

Overall Project Outcome and Results
Minnesota's water resources are poised to undergo significant changes in the coming decades. For example, with new bioenergy policies aiming to reduce fossil fuel dependency, Minnesota has become one of the top five bioethanol producers in the United States in the past two decades. Bio-energy production, together with increasing population, energy demand, and climate uncertainties present a great challenge for water authorities seeking to sustainable future water supply. There is an urgent need to integrate an analysis of demands on Minnesota's water resources with scenarios of future energy production. This project aimed to envision Minnesota's temporal and spatial water schemes by 2030 in response to population, energy, and climate scenarios, by integrating a system dynamics model with geographic information system (GIS) data. We developed an integrated spatial model that analyzes the future of Minnesota's water budget with particular attention to changes in water demand under different scenarios. Key trends incorporated into the scenarios include (1) biofuel production (considering water needs for irrigation of the biofuel feedstock as well as for processing); (2) changes in the electricity grid mix considering Minnesota's Renewable Energy Standards; (3) demographic changes; and (4) climate change. Scenarios of water demand was combined with GIS mapping and water balance techniques, which can deliver spatially and temporally explicit water budget projections for each scenario.

The results indicate that population growth and increasing demand on electric power generation are two primary factors driving increasing future water demand in Minnesota. Water management should be coupled with urban development and planning to reduce water stress induced by population growth and electric power generation. Late summer and winter are two periods of time in which it is particularly challenging to support human demand of water without the potential of drawing down the water resources. This report produced by this project presents maps and regional monthly water availability graphs for various scenarios tested in this study. These system characteristics shown in the current scenario analysis can play an important part of future water conservation and management planning.

Project Results Use and Dissemination
The study results were presented in more than four national and international conferences hosted in the US and Portugal, in which a poster summarizing the findings of this study won the poster contest in the prestigious Gordon Research Conference in 2010. One paper was published in a high-impact journal, Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T) in 2009; the paper was one of the top-three most-cited and downloaded articles in September, 2009. Another, follow-up article has been submitted to the same journal and is currently under review. In 2008, a round-table forum was hosted at the University of Minnesota to discus water sustainability modeling and its application. Scholars from state agencies, research institutes, and NGOs attended the forum to brainstorm feasible frameworks for assessing Minnesota's water future under different uncertainties. Detailed information of the presentations in this forum and relevant supporting information can be found at http://www.iel.umn.edu/forum/waterforum.htm PI. Suh is participating in a publication by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) on biofuel's water implication as an author based on the knowledge and findings gathered from this project. The publication is expected to be released in early 2010.

PROJECT PUBLICATION: The Future of Energy and Minnesota's Water Resources

Project Details