Fertilizer and pesticides used to cultivate feedstocks, as well as contaminated effluents discharged from conversion plants, can cause increasing levels of pollution to waterways. This may constrain the growth of biofuels production in developed and developing countries with already high agricultural production levels. Graphic illustrates agriculture in Mississippi river basin, an area known as the country’s corn and ethanol belt. Agricultural runoff in this region is very pervasive. Although much of the runoff is linked to corn production for food, feed and fodder, further increases in biofuel crops might cause an overload in runoff into these water bodies to the point where they cannot recover. It is worth noting that a potential collapse of the watershed could occur as a result of the cumulative effects of environmental stress from agricultural production alone, and not just from biofuels production. This example highlights the need to enact policies safeguarding overall water availability and quality over an entire watershed, promote water-efficient biomass production, and implement water-efficient management methods.
From collection: Biofuels Vital Graphics - Powering Green Economy
Riccardo Pravettoni, UNEP/GRID-Arendal