Current Sustainable/Renewable Energy Reports

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 71–89 | Cite as

Reservoir Design and Operation for the Food-Energy-Water Nexus

  • Andy Burrow
  • Alexandra NewmanEmail author
  • Morgan Bazilian
Energy Markets (R Sioshansi and A Mousavian, Section Editors)


As populations grow concurrently with changing climates, expanding economies and urbanization, competition for food, energy, and water resources increases. The intersection of these areas, sometimes referred to as the food-energy-water nexus, poses significant challenges. Using mixed-integer linear programming, this paper considers the impact of nexus decisions related to agricultural irrigation, water storage, and power generation on a river basin in northeastern Colorado. The model minimizes the cost of mitigating agricultural water shortages by designing additional storage for, and assigning flow of, excess water while identifying the location of the highest, most consistent volume to facilitate thermal power generation, while adhering to physical and topographical constraints that govern the movement of the river. We find that the optimal solution is a series of small reservoirs (cumulative storage volume of 31,023 acre-feet) to mitigate unmet agricultural demands, and the lowermost portion of the river has the highest, most consistent flow to facilitate thermal power generation. However, there exists enough water in the river during the time horizon of the study to support energy generation at any point along the river. Our optimization model can be used by long-range planners to make strategic food, energy, and water infrastructure decisions.


Mixed-integer programming Reservoir design River basin management Integrated water resource planning Climate-Land-Energy-Water 



We thank the following individuals for their direction and insights: (1) Stuart Cohen, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, (2) Kelly Eurek, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, (3) Andres Guerra, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, (4) William Hamilton, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, (5) Tissa Illangasekare, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, (6) Wil Kircher (Petroleum engineer), (7) Dinesh Mehta, Department of Computer Science, Colorado School of Mines, (8) Brent Schantz, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and (9) Regan Waskom, Colorado Water Institute, Colorado State University - Fort Collins.

Funding Information

The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial sponsorship of the Veteran’s Administration via the G.I. Bill, as well as a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the South Platte Basin Roundtable (POGGI-2017-906).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interests

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andy Burrow
    • 1
  • Alexandra Newman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Morgan Bazilian
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringColorado School of MinesGoldenUSA
  2. 2.Payne InstituteColorado School of MinesGoldenUSA

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