University of California, Merced graduate student Lorenzo Booth is hoping that his water footprinting research will help local growers find ways to use water more efficiently by allowing them to compare water usage for different crops in different locations.
“The idea is to compare agricultural water use based on symmetrical water footprints, which represent the volume of water that is incorporated into a unit of food,” said Booth. “We need to know how much water it takes to grow the particular plant and how much food items can be produced by the particular plant. We look at yield and water requirements.
“We’re hoping to get a tool released in the next couple of months,” added Booth.
Through water footprinting, which shows how many units of water are consumed per unit of product, Booth said farmers and investors can compare crops in order to determine which ones are the most water efficient in a particular region.
Booth was recognized in July as the best student poster presenter by the American Water Resources Association at conference in Sacramento for his poster titled “Improved Agricultural Water Use Accounting Through Water Footprinting.” As detailed on his poster, Booth explained how agricultural water use changes in wet and dry years and provided a comparison in order to “resolve the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of the water footprint of agricultural production.”
“It was kind of surprise to be recognized, but I felt happy that people think that this work is important,” said Booth.
Booth’s research is supported by the UC Water Security and Sustainability Research Initiative, which is headquartered at UC Merced. He works with his graduate advisor and UC Water co-director Joshua Viers, who is an associate professor in the UC Merced School of Engineering.
Booth is a master’s student in the Environmental Systems program at UC Merced, which “focuses on understanding the Earth as an integrated system that includes the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere in order to address the environmental consequences and develop sustainable solutions to providing food, energy, and other basic services to the Earth’s ever growing population,” according to its website.
Although Booth is originally from Los Angeles, he was exposed to the Central Valley growing up when he would visit relatives that live in Merced.
“I came to visit every other year and it always kind of struck me how in L.A., I would go to the grocery store and see food there or turn on the tap and not think twice about it, but around here you see all the different work and things that go into producing the food we eat,” said Booth. “It’s amazing to appreciate all of the processes people have to keep in mind for satisfying food requirements and sustaining our civilization.”
Prior to entering into the master’s program, Booth graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering at UC Merced. He said that while his future career plans have yet to be set in stone, one of his goals is to work for the Environmental Protection Agency.
“I just want to put my skills to wherever they can make the biggest impact,” said Booth. “I want to put my skills towards helping the country and help the world by proxy.”