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Conflicts in the food, energy, land and water nexus

Conflicts in the food, energy, land and water nexus

There is growing concern over future food production and increas­ing competition for resources in the food, energy and water nexus are reflected in a new interest for investment in land and water. “I cannot farm myself out of this water problem,” says Mark Shannon, a farmer who in 2010 had to let his land in the San Joaquin valley be converted into a solar power field. This is a vivid illustration of the shortage of resources that will be a permanent feature in the future, and how land, water and energy interplay.

Eagle Ford in Texas is one of the fastest-growing shale oil and gas plays (a group of fields in the same geological zone) in the United States. It is also located in one of the driest parts of the country. Following the severe drought of 2011, concerns are mounting that oil and gas extraction is competing with irrigation for scarce water supplies. Drilling and fracturing rock formations to release oil and gas (fracking) uses enormous quantities of water: according to most estimates, each well in Eagle Ford consumes between fifteen to nineteen million liters of water. The economic returns from using groundwater for fracking are enormous and easily outstrip the returns of agriculture, so frackers can easily outbid farmers. If the groundwater owner can claim royalties on the output from oil and gas wells, using groundwater to frack wells could earn more than two thousand times more than growing maize.[i]

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