Fresh water is arguably the most valuable natural resource in the world. Yet when talking about the prospect of replacing fossil fuels with plant-based biofuels, discussion often centers on diminishing petroleum supplies, energy security and climate change, and not on the possible effects increased biofuel production may have on the quality and quantity of local and regional freshwater resources in areas where energy crops grow.
Argonne’s WATER (Water Assessment for Transportation EnergyResources) tool quantifies water footprint of fuel production stages from feedstock production to conversion process for biofuel with county, state, and regional level spatial resolution. WATER provides analysis on water consumption and its impact on water quality. It contains biofuel pathways for corn grain ethanol, soybean biodiesel, and cellulosic ethanol produced from corn stover and wheat straw. Perennial grass (Switchgrass and Miscanthus) and forest wood residue-based biofuel pathways are currently under development. WATER enables users to conduct pathway comparison, scenario development, and regional specific feedstock analysis in supporting of biofuel industry development and planning.