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U.S.-China: Integrated Systems Modeling of Food-Energy-Water (FEW) Nexus for Urban Sustainability


This project will advance the science and engineering of Food-Energy-Water (FEW) nexus modeling by developing and applying an integrated systems modeling framework. The modeling framework will enable quantitative characterization of urban FEW nexus, identify areas for efficiency improvement, and evaluate the consequences of policy and technology scenarios. Results from the case studies in Detroit and Beijing will guide policy and technology development for better managing FEW resources for these two testbeds as well as other similar cities in the U.S., in China, and around the world. The collaboration between the U.S. and China on this project provides opportunities for a group of researchers with diverse background to share data, expertise, and experience on modeling urban FEW nexus. The project will also engage stakeholders for seeking inputs to improve the modeling framework and scenarios. Research results will also be provided to stakeholders to support their decision making relevant to FEW nexus. Through the U.S.-China collaboration, unique opportunities will be created for a diverse group of graduate and undergraduate STEM students to conduct cutting-edge research in an international, interdisciplinary environment.

The research employs the latest knowledge from multiple disciplines for developing an integrated systems modeling framework to understand urban FEW nexus. Dynamic material flow analysis will characterize urban FEW resource stocks and flows. The structure and importance of network components will be examined using network-based metrics and methods from different but related fields (ecological network analysis and complex network analysis). Policy and technology scenarios will be evaluated using these network-based metrics and methods to identify co-benefits and avoid unintended consequences. The resulting urban FEW nexus modeling framework will address multiple dimensions and scales: systems (integrated FEW systems), spatial (key system processes that are both within and outside the city boundary), and temporal (short-term flows and long-term stocks). The modeling framework will also be applied to two distinct testbeds (Detroit and Beijing) for demonstration. While the case study results are specific for the testbeds, the integrated systems modeling framework will be generally applicable for understand the FEW nexus for other urban areas.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Research Areas
Water Resources
Energy Systems
Food Systems and Consumer Products