Bioenergy and Water

Bioenergy and Water

Author: Sarah Watson

Water use to grow and process biomass feedstocks for fuels has recently emerged as an important controversy. In a world where several countries already face water stress – and where over 70% of global freshwater use takes place in the agricultural sector – bioenergy development might present considerable challenges, from the perspective of water quantity as well as water quality.

Water use may become as important to the future of biofuels as the so-called food vs fuel issue or the indirect land-use change battle, reflecting the increasing need for the same raw materials for uses such as fuel, food and fodder for a growing global population. It is therefore important that the ongoing discussion of water and biofuels be as well-informed and as rational as possible. The peer-reviewed journal Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining published a special issue addressing this important issue and considering where well-planned deployments might actually have a positive impact on the future of both energy and food security.

The Special Issue features a set of articles discussing different elements that are important in order to adequately understand, responsibly react to, and manage issues associated with the effects of bioenergy on water resources. The articles have mainly been written by the authors of a report jointly produced by The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) together with the Oeko-Institut and International Energy Agency (IEA Bioenergy Task 4) on the interlinkages between bioenergy and water entitled ‘The bioenergy and water nexus’.

The special issue is Guest Edited by Martina Otto, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), France; Göran Berndes, IEA Bioenergy Task 43/Chalmers University, Sweden; and Uwe Fritsche, Oeko-Institut, Germany, who were part of the panel of international experts involved in the report.

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