The Role of Industrial Ecology in Food and Agriculture’s Adaption to Climate Change

Full Title: The role of industrial ecology in food and agriculture’s adaptation to climate change
Authors: Alissa Kendall and Edward S Spang
Publication:  Journal of Industrial Ecology. 2019;1-5 // Published 01, April 2019
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Abstract: The food and agriculture sectors contribute significantly to climate change, but are also particularly vulnerable to its effects. Industrial ecology has robustly addressed these sectors’ contributions to climate change, but not their vulnerability to climate change. Climate change vulnerability must be addressed through development of climate change adaptation and resiliency strategies. However, there is a fundamental tension between the primary objectives of industrial ecology (efficiency, cyclic flows, and pollution prevention) and what is needed for climate change adaptation and resiliency. We develop here two potential ways through which the field can overcome (or work within) this tension and combine the tools and methods of industrial ecology with the science and process of climate change adaptation. The first layers industrial ecology tools on top of climate change adaptation strategies, allowing one to, for example, compare the environmental impacts of different adaptation strategies. The other embeds climate change adaptation and resiliency within industrial ecology tools, for example, by redefining the functional unit in life cycle assessment (LCA) to include functions of resiliency. In both, industrial ecology plays a somewhat narrow role, informing climate change adaptation and resilience decision‐making by providing quantitative indicators of environmental performance. This role for industrial ecology is important given the significant contributions and potential for mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from food and agriculture. However, it suggests that industrial ecology’s role in climate adaptation will be as an evaluator of adaptation strategies, rather than an originator.

Embedded Water Footprint of In-Field Crop Loss

Full Title: Estimating the Blue Water Footprint of In-Field Crop Losses: A Case Study of U.S. Potato Cultivation
Authors: Edward S Spang and Bret D Stevens
Publication:  Sustainability 2018, Volume 10, Number 8 // Published 11 August 2018
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Abstract: Given the high proportion of water consumption for agriculture, as well as the relatively common occurrence of crop losses in the field, we estimate the amount of water embedded in crops left on the farm. We are particularly interested in understanding losses associated with fruits and vegetables, having a higher level of harvesting selectivity and perishability (and thus, losses) than grain crops. We further refined the study to focus on potatoes, as they represent the largest acreage under cultivation of all fruit and vegetable crops in the U.S. We attempt to get the most complete understanding of pre-harvest and harvest loss data for potatoes by leveraging three centralized data sets collected and managed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). By integrating these three distinct data sets for the five-year period 2012–2016, we are able to estimate water consumption for potato cultivation for total in-field losses by production stage and driver of loss for seven major potato-producing states (representing 77% of total U.S. potato production). Our results suggest that 3.6%–17.9% of potatoes are lost in the field with a total estimated blue water footprint of approximately 84.6 million cubic meters. We also find that the leading driver for crop loss for in-field potato production is harvest sorting and grading, accounting for 84% of total lost production at the farm. We conclude with a discussion of opportunities for improved national level data collection to provide a better understanding of in-field crop losses over time and the resource footprints of these losses.

Estimated Impact of CA’s urban water conservation mandate…

Full Title: The estimated impact of California’s urban water conservation mandate on electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions
Authors: Edward S Spang, Andrew J Holguin and Frank J Loge
Publication:  Environmental Research Letters, Volume 13, Number 1 // Published 12, January 2018
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Abstract: In April 2015, the Governor of California mandated a 25% statewide reduction in water consumption (relative to 2013 levels) by urban water suppliers. The more than 400 public water agencies affected by the regulation were also required to report monthly progress towards the conservation goal to the State Water Resources Control Board. This paper uses the reported data to assess how the water utilities have responded to this mandate and to estimate the electricity savings and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions associated with reduced operation of urban water infrastructure systems. The results show that California succeeded in saving 524 000 million gallons (MG) of water (a 24.5% decrease relative to the 2013 baseline) over the mandate period, which translates into 1830 GWh total electricity savings, and a GHG emissions reduction of 521 000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (MT CO2e). For comparison, the total electricity savings linked to water conservation are approximately 11% greater than the savings achieved by the investor-owned electricity utilities’ efficiency programs for roughly the same time period, and the GHG savings represent the equivalent of taking about 111 000 cars off the road for a year. These indirect, large-scale electricity and GHG savings were achieved at costs that were competitive with existing programs that target electricity and GHG savings directly and independently. Finally, given the breadth of the results produced, we built a companion website, called ‘H2Open’ (, to this research effort that allows users to view and explore the data and results across scales, from individual water utilities to the statewide summary.

Segmentation analysis of residential water-electricity demand…

Full Title: Segmentation analysis of residential water-electricity demand for customized demand-side management programs
Authors: A. Cominola, E.S. Spang, M. Giuliania, A. Castellettia, J.R. Lund, F.J. Loge
Publication:  Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 172, 20 January 2018, Pages 1607-1919
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Abstract: With increasing water and energy use in the residential sector, due to population growth, urbanization, and climate change, demand-side management (DSM) is essential to complement supply-side interventions to meet future demands and reduce costs. This paper explores how customer segmentation analysis can support customized water and electricity DSM. We contribute a three-phase customer segmentation analysis of over 1000 residential accounts in the Los Angeles County (Southern California) to explore the heterogeneity of residential water-electricity demand profiles and provide insights for coordinated water-energy DSM. Results show that, on the one hand, daily water and electricity consumption are correlated, thus groups of high consumers can be targeted with coordinated water-electricity DSM interventions. On the other hand, the absence of a relevant causal nexus between water and electricity daily load shapes suggests that DSM actions for water should be differentiated from those for electricity. Finally, both objective (e.g., presence of swimming pool) and subjective psychographic features (e.g., conservation attitude) are found to be relevant potential drivers of water-electricity demands. Based on these findings, we propose recommendations for designing a portfolio of mixed customized water-electricity DSM interventions to foster conservation or peak shifting objectives. <br/>