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Joint Management of an Interconnected Coastal Aquifer and Invasive Tree

Kiawe (Prosopis pallida), a mesquite tree considered invasive in many parts of the world including Hawai‘i, has been shown to reduce regional groundwater levels via deep taproots. In areas where aquifers are primary sources of fresh water, kiawe control has the potential to be an integral component of water management planning. We develop an analytical dynamic framework for the joint management of kiawe and groundwater, and show that optimal water management depends on expected kiawe damages, while optimal kiawe removal depends on groundwater scarcity and removal cost. Using data from the Kīholo aquifer on the west coast of Hawai‘i Island, we solve for joint management decisions with corresponding parameters related to kiawe damage and water scarcity. With 1.5% water demand growth, Kiawe should be removed if the removal cost is below $1,884/ha. Our numerical results indicate that kiawe damage is nonlinear in the rate of water demand growth. The damage costs can be attributed to three main factors. When demand growth is low, kiawe damage is driven by a higher water extraction cost. For moderate growth, the effect is compounded by anticipated future scarcity. Damage is amplified by a backstop cost effect when the growth rate is high.

Working Paper

Estimating Cost-Effectiveness of Hawaiian Dry Forest Restoration Using Spatial Changes in Water Yield and Landscape Flammability Under Climate Change open access

New research published in Pacific Science from an interdisciplinary team including UHERO's Christopher Wada, Leah Bremer, and Kim Burnett identifying cost-effective watershed restoration for multiple ecosystem service benefits in Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a on the island of Hawai‘i.



Assessing the Costs of Priority HISC Species in Hawaii

Over the past decade, funding for the Hawaii Invasive Species Council (HISC) has ranged from less than $2 million per year in the three years following the recent economic downturn, up to almost $6 million in FY2015. The HISC website provides total award amounts for past projects, but it is difficult to attribute exact dollar amounts to specific species for projects that target multiple species. As a starting point, we consider the number of times each invasive species was designated as a target over the period FY2005-2015. While this list does not necessarily represent species that generated the largest economic damages or species for which the most spending has occurred, it is a list of species getting the most attention by HISC. For the most part, the top ten have remained fairly consistent over time, although in recent years, axis deer, albizia, and ivy gourd have received noticeably more attention.


Sustainable Agriculture Irrigation Management: The Water-Energy-Food Nexus in Pajaro Valley, California

The water-energy-food (WEF) nexus is quickly becoming one of the most critical global environmental challenges of the twenty first century. However, WEF systems are inherently complex; they typically are dynamic and span multiple land or agro-ecosystems at a regional or global scale. Addressing this challenge requires a systems approach to optimal and sustainable resource management across multiple dimensions. To that end, using Pajaro Valley (California) as a case study, our research aims to (1) highlight synergies and tradeoffs in food and water production, (2) build a dynamic framework capable of examining intertemporal resource relationships, and (3) detail the steps required to develop incentive-compatible financing of the resulting management plans when benefits are not distributed uniformly across users. Using a stylized model, we find that in the long run, inland growers benefit from the halting of seawater intrusion (SWI) due to overpumping of groundwater. We also calculate that the water provided by the proposed College Lake Multi-Objective Management Program—a plan designed to halt SWI and support sustainable water and agricultural development in the region—will generate net revenue of $40-58 million per year, compared to an annualized cost of less than $3 million. An equal cost-sharing plan would be desirable if the benefit of the project exceeded $1,268 per year for each well owner. Since this may not necessarily be the case for smaller well owners, one possible alternative is to allocate costs in proportion to expected benefits for each user.


A Review of the Current State of Research on the Water, Energy, and Food Nexus

The idea of the water-energy-food nexus was launched in earnest since at least the Bonn2011 Nexus Conference, when the German Federal Government organized the international Conference “The Water Energy and Food Security Nexus – Solutions for the Green Economy” to contribute to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). According to the background paper prepared by Hoff for the Conference, the concept of the water-energy-food nexus emerged in the international community in response to climate change and social changes including population growth, globalization, economic growth, and urbanization (Hoff 2011). These issues are causing increased pressure on water, energy and food resources, presenting communities with an increasing number of tradeoffs and potential conflicts among these resources which have complex interactions. For example, demands for water, energy and food are estimated to increase by 40%, 50% and 35% respectively by 2030 (US NIC 2012). Although various nexus-related conferences, research initiatives and projects have been held around the world under such circumstances, water-energy-food nexus policy has not yet been initiated in Japan.


The Economic Value of Groundwater in Obama

Worldwide, freshwater is important not only for direct consumption but also for its role in the production of a variety of goods and services. For example, water is used for cooling nuclear reactors and as an input for the production of energy via hydroelectric processes. Freshwater also is essential for the production of food, including crops and livestock. Recognizing these synergies and identifying tradeoffs are key components of water-energy-food (WEF) nexus research (Taniguchi et al., 2013; Loring et al., 2013; Giampietro et al., 2014). In this study, we focus on Obama City, Japan, where groundwater is used directly for domestic and commercial consumption and for melting snow. Stored groundwater also provides an indirect benefit: submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) from the aquifer supports the nearshore ecology, including a locally important fishery. Using this case study, we document some common challenges that arise when undertaking WEF research and outline an example of an integrated approach that combines multiple modes of analysis to overcome those obstacles.


Cost-Benefit Analysis of Disaster Mitigation Infrastructure: The Case of Seawalls in Otsuchi, Japan

Disaster management problems often pose the same types of challenges that environmental governance problems do; they involve decision-makers at various levels and can transcend political boundaries. We conduct a benefit-cost analysis of a disaster adaptation strategy in Otsuchi, which was undertaken shortly after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami devastated the region. Results indicate that present value net benefits from the planned seawall are positive, even if expected damages are low, provided that the wall is capable of reducing damage by at least 50%. A hybrid method of governance may, however, be effective at increasing the benefit-cost ratio.


The Evolution of the HI Growth Initiative

Supporting innovation as an engine of economic growth is an essential component of the state’s overall economic strategy. The Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism and its attached agencies, the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation (HSDC), the High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC), and the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) are responsible for advancing innovation-oriented projects that improve the living standards of Hawaii residents by generating opportunities for high-wage job creation.

Project report

Recent Trends in Hawaii's Green Economy: Agriculture, Energy and Natural Resource Management

This report provides an update to the 2012 “Foundations for Hawai‘i’s Green Economy: Economic Trends in Hawai‘i Agriculture, Energy, and Natural Resource Management.” Although economic information has long been collected for many sectors in Hawai‘i, including agriculture and energy, the 2012 project was the first to collect indicators specifically for the natural resource management (NRM) sector. With financial support from Hau‘oli Mau Loa Foundation and research assistance from The Nature Conservancy, the University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Organization was tasked with collecting and analyzing information from three sectors that are key to future sustainability in Hawai‘i - energy, agriculture and natural resource management.

project report

Methods of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus

This paper focuses on a collection of methods that can be used to analyze the water-energy-food (WEF) nexus. We classify these methods as qualitative or quantitative for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research approaches. The methods for interdisciplinary research approaches can be used to unify a collection of related variables, visualize the research problem, evaluate the issue, and simulate the system of interest. Qualitative methods are generally used to describe the nexus in the region of interest, and include primary research methods such as Questionnaire Surveys, as well as secondary research methods such as Ontology Engineering and Integrated Maps. Quantitative methods for examining the nexus include Physical Models, Benefit-Cost Analysis (BCA), Integrated Indices, and Optimization Management Models. The authors discuss each of these methods in the following sections, along with accompanying case studies from research sites in Japan and the Philippines. Although the case studies are specific to two regions, these methods could be applicable to other areas, with appropriate calibration.

Published version: Endo, A., K. Burnett, P. Orencio, T. Kumazawa, C. Wada, A. Ishii, I. Tsurita, and M. Taniguchi. 2015. Methods of the water-energy-food nexus. Water 7, 5806-5830.


Water, energy, and food Security in the Asia Pacific Region

Security measures of three resources; water, energy and food are analysed for thirty two countries in the Asia Pacific region, in terms of amounts of the resource, self-production, and diversity of souces of each resource. We find that the Asia Pacific countries contain almost half of the world’s income and population, and are more self-sufficient in food production than the rest of the world, but are less self-sufficient in energy production. The self-production ratio of food within the Asia Pacific region has been decreasing since the 1960’s, though the ratio is still over 100 %. On the other hand, the self-production energy rate within the Asia-Pacific region increased from 82 % in the 1970’s up to 95 % in 2010. Diversity for all the three resources is also analyzed using surface water and groundwater for water sources; hydro power, geothermal power, solar, and biomass for energy; and cereals, vegetable, fruit, meat, and fish for food. We see high diversity of sources of water in the US and the Philippines, and a low diversity of sources of food in the US, Canada, and Indonesia.


Assessing the potential for food and energy self-sufficiency on the island of Kauai, Hawaii

Food and energy security are major concerns in the Pacific and around the world. They are key planning priorities in the state of Hawaii as well. Approximately 90 percent of energy and food resources are imported to Hawaii from the continental USA or other parts of the world. While food and energy independence is a goal in many jurisdictions, assessment of the potential for local food and energy production is lacking. Research is needed to examine how agricultural lands can be used to meet food and energy demands, particularly on islands where land is limited. The contribution of this paper is the development of a community-orientated method for evaluating and prioritizing lands for food and energy self-sufficiency, based on local preferences and production possibilities. Based on a review of the literature, community meetings, and expert interviews, three scenarios were developed to assess food and energy production possibilities on Kauai. The first scenario considers maximum food production, the second assigns equal importance to food and energy production, and the third scenario maximizes energy production. This work broadens policy discussions regarding the preservation of agricultural lands on small islands.

Published version: Kim, K., K. Burnett and J. Ghimire. 2015. Assessing the potential for food and energy self-sufficiency on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. Food Policy, 54, 44-51.


Economic Impact of the Natural Energy Laboratory Hawaii Authority Tenants on the State of Hawaii

The Natural Energy Laboratory Hawaii Authority (NELHA) contracted UHERO to estimate its economic impact on the State of Hawaii. NELHA currently accommodates 37 tenants ranging from companies bottling deep sea water to solar and biofuel companies. These tenants pay close to $2 million in rent, royalties and pass through expense directly to NELHA. In addition, they employ hundreds of people, purchase goods and services from local businesses, and invest in capital improvements at NELHA.

This research determines NELHA’s contribution to local business sales, employee earnings, tax revenues, and number of jobs in Hawaii from the expenditures of its tenants in 2013. NELHA provides additional benefits to the state of Hawaii that this study does not capture but are important to consider when evaluating NELHA’s overall footprint on the economy.


Benefit-Cost Analysis of Watershed Conservation

The objectives of this report are (1) to review studies that estimate the relationship between watershed conservation activities and groundwater recharge in Hawai‘i and (2) to estimate the volume of freshwater yield saved per dollar invested in conservation at several sites on Hawai‘i Island. We conclude from the literature review that more work should be done to integrate information from smaller-scale studies of invasive-native water use differences into regional water balance models. This would help to inform decisions related to watershed conservation activities statewide. Using budget information obtained from the Nature Conservancy and the Division of Forestry and Wildlife as well as publicly available landcover and evapotranspiration (ET) data, we estimate the gallons of freshwater yield saved per dollar invested in watershed conservation. Under baseline conditions—a 3 percent discount rate and a 10 percent rate of spread for existing invasive plant species—roughly 400 gallons are saved on average across management sites per dollar invested. In other words, about $2.50 in present value terms is required to protect every one thousand gallons of freshwater over a 50 year time horizon. Annual benefits increase continuously as the avoided loss of freshwater yield rises over time, while conservation costs tend to be front-loaded, as a result of high fence installation and ungulate removal costs. Thus, it is important to consider the long run when comparing the benefits and costs of conservation activities.

working paper

The Economic Impact of Astronomy in Hawai‘i

The astronomy sector in Hawaii generates economic activity through its purchases from local businesses, its payment to its employees, and spending by students and visitors. In collaboration with the Institute for Astronomy, a survey was designed to obtain information from astronomy related entities about in-state expenditures. The collected survey data was used to estimate the astronomy sector’s total economic activity in each of Hawaii’s counties for the calendar year 2012. Following a standard Input-Output approach, we define economic impact to be the direct, indirect, and induced economic activities generated by the astronomy sector’s expenditures in the state economy, taking into account inter-county feedback and spillover effects.

Local astronomy related expenditures in calendar year 2012 were $58.43 million, $25.80 million, $1.28 million, and $2.58 million in Hawaii, Honolulu, Kauai, and Maui counties respectively. Total astronomy related spending in the state was $88.09 million. Including indirect and induced benefits and adjusting for inter-county feedback and spillover effects, the astronomy sector had a total impact of $167.86 million statewide. The largest impact was found to be in Hawaii County ($91.48 million), followed by Honolulu County ($68.43 million). Impacts were found to be relatively small in Maui County ($5.34 million) and Kauai County ($2.61 million). In addition to contributing to output, astronomy activities generated $52.26 million in earnings, $8.15 million in state taxes, and 1,394 jobs statewide.


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