If more efficient use of water isn’t made a priority, a shortage of available water could undercut the increasing production of ethanol, according to a report by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).
The report, Water Use by Ethanol Plants, was written by Dennis Keeney and Mark Muller, director of IATP’s Environment and Agriculture program. Their study found that public information is limited and few states are monitoring water use at ethanol plants.
No public records are available on the total water use by ethanol plants in the United States, and Minnesota is the only. major ethanol-producing state that has public records on water use by specific plants, according to the report.
Minnesota’s ethanol plants have improved their water use efficiency from an average of 5.8 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol produced in 1998 to a ratio of 4.2 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol in 2005.
The researchers say that if the Minnesota data is typical of ethanol plants nationwide, water use associated with ethanol plants could improve by 254 percent from 1998 to 2008.
“Despite steady improvements in the efficiency of water use in ethanol plants, the sheer number of new ethanol plants being built has the potential to put a strain on the Corn Belt’s water resources,” Keeney says. “The good news is that much of ethanol’s water demands can be met with appropriate planning. But that planning is currently not happening at the level it needs to.”
Most U.S. ethanol plants…
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