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Job Talk - The Global Food Trade System’s Impact on Local Water Sustainability

When Mar 15, 2016
from 3:15 PM to 4:45 PM
Where 202 Hammond Building, University Park, PA 16802
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Abstract

Globalization has strengthened and expanded connections between socioeconomic systems and distant water resources, by enabling consumer demand of water-intensive agricultural products in one location to be fulfilled with production and water use in another. These nonlocal interactions are increasingly widespread and lead to unanticipated outcomes with profound implications for resource consumption and sustainability. This presentation will highlight current research exploring the nexus between food, water, and trade. The first study discussed evaluates the link between groundwater overexploitation, food production, and trade by quantifying and tracing virtual transfers of critical groundwater resources (that is, the groundwater embedded in the production of traded commodities) from the US High Plains, Central Valley, and Mississippi Embayment aquifer systems to their final destination. This analysis highlights the major US cities, US states, and countries that are currently most reliant on these overexploited aquifers and most vulnerable to eventual reductions in agricultural production from their unsustainable management. Next, research will be presented that examines how the ongoing California drought impacts virtual water flows from the region. This study quantifies and brings greater understanding of the interconnections between drought, human responses (e.g., change in crop production, trade, and irrigation patterns), and increasing groundwater depletion.Lastly, ongoing research on physical and virtual inter-basin water transfers will be explored. Together, the work presented provides an important first step toward empowering producers, consumers, water planners, and decision makers to manage water resources more holistically and at the appropriate scale. 

About the Speaker

Landon Marston is a PhD Candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He conducts policy-relevant research at the nexus of water, food, and trade that raises public awareness of how the global food trade system impacts water sustainability. Landon’s work has been covered by the New York Times, TIME Magazine, and Los Angeles Times. Before attending the University of Illinois, Landon worked for the Army Corps of Engineers as a Water Resources Engineer. Landon also has a master’s degree in Water Resources Engineering from Texas A&M University, as well as a M.B.A. and B.S. degree from the University of Kentucky.