Modeling cross-scale, cross-sector tradeoffs in food-energy-water systems


Feedbacks among water availability, irrigated agriculture, and energy production pose significant challenges for entities that must make decisions subject to uncertain—and potentially cascading—risks from resource disruption.

For example, in California, snowpack fuels hydropower production and provides water for irrigation to the Central Valley, the most highly agriculturally productive area in the U.S., making this region one that is highly vulnerable to hydrologic drought. During drought, irrigators pump groundwater to recoup lost surface water, increasing electricity demand; at the same time, reduced hydropower production is replaced by more expensive natural gas generation, increasing electricity prices precisely when farmers’ pumping requirements are highest.

System dynamics among water, irrigated agriculture and electric power sectors in California.

The Kern Group seeks to better understand complex, interconnected FEW systems. Our group has been funded by two NSF Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems (INFEWS) awards and a NSF Dynamics of Coupled Natural Human Systems (CNH2) award, and an NSF STC award (the STEPS Center). We are also supported by the DOE Office of Science Integrated, Multi-scale, Multi-sector Modeling (IM3) project, and the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office. These projects often involve collaboration with researchers and public/private stakeholders across the U.S.


Relevant Papers:

Zeighami, A., Kern, J.D., Yates, A., Weber, P., Bruno, A. (2023). “U.S. West Coast Droughts and Heat Waves Exacerbate Pollution Inequality and Can Undermine Emission Control Policies”. Nature Communications. 10.1038/s41467-023-37080-0

Denaro, S., Cuppari, R., Kern, J., Su, Y., Characklis, G. (2022). “Assessing the Bonneville Power Administration’s Financial Vulnerability to Hydrologic Variability“. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management. Vol. 148, Issue 10. doi: 10.1061/(ASCE)WR.1943-5452.0001590

Koh, R., Kern, J.D., Galelli, S. (2022). “Hard-coupling water and power system models increases the complementarity of renewable energy sources” Applied Energy. Vol. 321.

Oikonomou, K., Tarroja, B., Kern, J.D., Voisin, N. (2022). “Review of Core Process Representation in Power System Operational Models: Gaps, Challenges, and Opportunities for Multisector Dynamics Research.” Energy. Volume 238, Part C, 1 January 2022, 122049

Hill, J., Kern, J.D, Rupp, D., Voisin, N., Characklis, G. (2021). “The Effects of Climate Change on Interregional Electricity Market Dynamics on the U.S. West Coast” Earth’s Future. Volume 9, Issue 12.

Su, Y., Kern, J.D., Reed, P., Characklis, G. (2020). “Compound Hydrometeorological Extremes Across Multiple Timescales Drive Volatility in California Electricity Market Prices and Emissions”. Applied Energy.

Kern, J.D., Su, Y., Hill, J. (2020). “A retrospective study of the 2012-2016 California drought and its impacts on the power sector.” Environmental Research Letters. 15 094008

Su, Y., Kern, J., Denaro, S., Hill, J., Reed, P., Sun, Y., Cohen, J., Characklis, G. (2020). “An open source model for quantifying risks in bulk electric power systems from spatially and temporally correlated hydrometeorological processes” Environmental Modelling and Software. Vol. 126.

Chowdhury, AFM K., Kern, J., Dang, T., Galelli, S. (2020) “PowNet: a power systems analysis model for large-scale water-energy nexus studies”. Journal of Open Research Software. September 2019.

Kern, J.D., Gorelick, D.E., Characklis, G.W., Macklin, C.M. (2020). “Multi-Objective Optimal Siting of Algal Biofuel Production with Municipal Wastewater Treatment in Watersheds with Nutrient Trading Markets.” Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management.

Wang, X., Virguez, E., Kern, J., Chen, L., Patino-Echeverri, D., Wang, H. (2019) “Integrating wind, photovoltaic, and large hydropower during the reservoir refilling period.” Energy Conversion and Management. Volume 198, October 2019.

Kern, J.D., Hise, A.M, Characklis, G.W., Gerlach, R., Viamajala, S., Gardner, R. (2017) “Using Life Cycle Assessment and Techno-Economic Analysis in a Real Options Framework to Inform the Design of Algal Biofuel Production Facilities.” Bioresource Technology.Vol. 225, pp. 418-428.

Hise, A., Characklis, G., Kern, J., Gerlach, R., Viamajala, S., Gardner, R., Vadlamani, A. (2016). “Evaluating the Relative Impacts of Operational and Financial Factors on the Competitiveness of an Algal Biofuel Production Facility.” Bioresource Technology. Nov; 220. pp. 271-281