UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Harmonizing water footprint assessments for agricultural production in Southern Amazonia Lathuillière, Michael Jacques


Since its inception in 2002, the water footprint (WF) has brought new insight into the direct and indirect (or supply chain) uses of water in the production and consumption of goods and services. Today, this emerging field is mainly represented by two distinct communities following distinct WF approaches: the water resources management community which follows guidelines from the WF Network, and the life cycle assessment (LCA) community which focuses on assessing impacts from water use. This thesis seeks to harmonize WF assessments by combining and contrasting methods and objectives from both communities with the overarching goal of informing water decision-making by (1) considering limits to water resources within a river basin (the “Nature” domain), and (2) considering water use in production systems (the “Production” domain). Following this proposed framework to combine WF assessments (Chapter 2), I assess how each approach may address water management for agricultural production in Southern Amazonia (Mato Grosso, Brazil), a region that has dramatically increased its soybean and cattle production through deforestation. In Chapters 3 and 4, I respectively measure and model the WF of cropland and cattle to highlight on-farm water use strategies for agricultural production (the volumetric WF assessment phase). Chapter 5 focuses on the Xingu Basin of Mato Grosso for which I assess water scarcity of current and future agricultural production (the volumetric WF sustainability assessment phase). Finally, in Chapter 6, I integrate existing water use in LCA methods to highlight water use efficiencies through impact assessment (the WF impact assessment phase). Results show different land and water management options for crops and cattle in Southern Amazonia, but also demonstrate that water use for future production could reach sustainable limits, should cropland irrigation and cattle confinement become more widespread. Moreover, the role of water vapour supply to the atmosphere through evapotranspiration is stressed as an important process that could affect future water availability due to the importance of moisture recycling on regional precipitation. This research provides context on the role of land management on water resources, while combining water decisions affecting both production systems and resource limits imposed by the water cycle.

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