Purdue University Graduate School
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Application of a Food-Energy-Water (FEW) Nexus Approach to Water Resources Management in the Colombian Andean Region

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posted on 2022-05-03, 13:14 authored by Camilo Torres PardoCamilo Torres Pardo

Water resources are currently under high pressure due to population growth, urbanization, and changes in climate patterns. Therefore, there is a need for strategies to improve water resources management  at  all  scales.  The  Food-Energy-Water  (FEW)  nexus approach has  emerged  as an alternative  for  water  resources  management  since  it provides a  comprehensive management strategy through which interactions among components of food, energy, and water systems can be evaluated. In the Latin American and Caribbean region, studies and reports evaluating the FEW nexus are  limited  in  comparison  to  other  regions  in  the  world. The  aim of  this work was to investigate  the  potential  for  applying  a  FEW  nexus  approach  to  improve  water  resources management in the Colombian Andean region. In this study, an urban FEW nexus framework was developed  for the  Otun  River  Watershed  (ORW),  a  pilot  study  site  located in the Colombian Andean  region, based  on a  characterization of  the watershed’s climate,  land  use  land  cover, streamflow,    and    water    quality.    Results    from    the    characterization    revealed    that    the Pereira/Dosquebradas urban area had the greatest impact on watershed water resources owing to its high water and energy demand. Additionally, the Otun River water quality is mostly affected by this urban area due to the lack of a wastewater treatment facility to decontaminate urban sewage water. The Pereira/Dosquebradas urban area is primarily dependent on food coming from outside of  the  ORW,  thus  food  production  does  not  have  as  large  an  impact  on  water  resources  in  the watershed. A FEW nexus analysis for 2035showed that water and energy demand could increase by 16%  and  30%,  respectively,  except where a reduction  in  food  production in  the  ORW  is considered, in which case the water demand would remained unchanged. Hydrological modeling of the watershed showed potential changes ranging between -35%and 53%in watershed runoff and  -29%and25% in overall water yield for the period 2030to2039, in response to anticipated changes in average annual precipitation ranging from -29% to 6% when comparing to a baseline scenario (2007-2012). Thus, changes in precipitation could affect the volume of water available for residential,  industrial,  and  agricultural activities  in  the  ORW. Moreover,  an  increase  in  the number   of extreme   weather events   could   cause   more   floods and   landslides. Therefore, recommendations for water resources management in the ORW include reducing water losses in the  water  distribution  systems,  adopting  water  conservation  practices,  developing  GI  and decentralized  wastewater  systems,  and  implementing  urban  and  peri-urban  farming  practices. Finally, as water quality is of high concern in the ORW, an assessment was conducted to determine suitable water quality sampling frequencies to meet different water quality monitoring objectives. This analysis used the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) as a case study site as it has long-term, continuous water quality records with data available at least ona daily basis. Daily concentrations for select  constituents  (suspended  solids, total  phosphorus, soluble  reactive  phosphorus,  and nitrates+nitrites)  were  used  to  create  weekly,  bi-weekly,  monthly,  and  seasonal  subsamples following  distinctive  rules  for  day,  week,  or  month  of  sampling. Results from  this evaluation indicate that monthly and seasonal sampling would be sufficient if the objective was to assess the stream’s water quality status. However, if the monitoring objective was related to the examination of water quality trends, weekly and bi-weekly sampling would give better results. Furthermore, differential sampling could be adopted in areas with distinctive characteristics, prioritizing high-resolution sampling (daily, weekly, and bi-weekly) in subareas where the constituents of concern have a high variability (sediments and nutrients)or non-point source pollution has been identified as an issue. The remaining subareas could be sampled on a seasonal or annual basis, with sampling conducted at random to reduce bias. Overall, this study provided an urban FEW nexus framework for the Colombian Andean Region, illustrated the application of this framework in a pilot study site (ORW) under current and future conditions, and presented recommendations for water quality sampling frequency on sites with limited resources to implement a high-resolution water quality monitoring plan.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Margaret W. GItau

Additional Committee Member 2

Shweta Singh

Additional Committee Member 3

Bernard A. Engel

Additional Committee Member 4

Diego Paredes-Cuervo