Welcome to Iowa UrbanFEWS

Social and biophysical models to integrate local food systems, climate dynamics, built forms, and environmental impacts in the Urban Food-Energy-Water Systems nexus

Systems frameworks that analyze the Urban FEWS nexus have only recently been proposed.  Developing such frameworks is challenging because urban FEW systems are characterized by disconnected processes for production, distribution, consumption, and cycling of food, energy, and water systems. In addition, the effects of changes in climate and land use, built forms, and their impacts on food supply, energy conservation and consumption, and environmental outcomes (e.g., water quality) are often considered in isolation. Our proposed work will address problems related to urban food systems, which alone cause 20% to 50% of human impact on the environment as a result of high population densities, heavy reliance on external food sources, and failure to recycle nutrients.  To conduct robust analyses of urban FEW systems it is necessary to consider interactions within the urban system itself, as well as trans-boundary interactions with areas both adjacent to and further removed from the system.  While frameworks emphasizing the biophysical elements of urban FEW systems and interactions among them have been presented, previous efforts failed to closely integrate social, biophysical, and climatic models to characterize the urban FEW system-of-systems.  Urban areas are where over 50% of people in the world and 80% of people in the US live and work.  Human choices drive significant changes in both social and physical landscapes, so it is imperative to integrate social dynamics in analyses of the urban FEWS nexus.



Major NSF sponsored grant will help researchers discover ways to improve urban sustainability

Mar 03, 2020
Posted Jan 22, 2020 9:47 am

Dense urban areas use up more energy, water and food resources than they can produce themselves, forcing them to rely on external sources. But a team of researchers is imagining bold new ways to make Midwestern cities more self-reliant.

The Sustainable Cities Research Team recently received a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a framework for analysis of food, energy and water systems for greater Des Moines, which includes the city and the surrounding six-county area, and to formulate scenarios that could result in a more sustainable city. The team includes scientists from a wide range of disciplines at Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa and University of Texas at Arlington.

The group intends for its results to inform decisions about food production, energy use, environmental outcomes and related policies that would apply to a large number of cities in rain-fed climates similar to Des Moines. Their innovative approach could help cities conserve building and transportation energy, reduce environmental impacts and improve city sustainability.

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A presentation by Fagbule Oluwatobiloba at the ISU Undergraduate Summer Research Symposium 2020

Aug 04, 2020

Building cooling loads are driven by heat gains through enclosures. Vegetative shading reduces these gains by blocking radiation and by evaporative air cooling. Few measured data exists. This project is thus gathering thermal data on the impact of vegetative wall coverings on colling load reduction.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine hosted a virtual workshop!

Jul 22, 2020

On July 22 and 23, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine hosted a virtual workshop titled ‘Healthy People, Healthy Planet: Building a More Sustainable, Resilient, Equitable, and Nourishing Food System.’ Workshop presenters explored three main dimensions of the food system: vulnerabilities, resiliency, and transformation. The workshop included discussions on global change, access to health and food, resiliency in complex dynamic systems, and consumption- and production-oriented strategies for change.

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This work is supported by the National Science Foundation, Award # 1855902. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.