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Frontiers of the food–energy–water trilemma: Sri Lanka as a microcosm of tradeoffs

Food, energy, and water are three critical resources for humanity. As climate variability, population growth, and lifestyle changes amplify the stress placed on each of the resources, the interrelationships among food, energy, and water systems become more pronounced. Political conflict, social and cultural norms, and spatial and temporal distribution of the resources add additional layers of complexity. It is in this context that the significance of understanding the impacts of water scarcity on the decisions around food and energy productions has emerged. Our work establishes tradeoff frontiers (TFs) as a method useful in illustrating the system-level tradeoffs between allocating water for food and water for energy. This paper illustrates how TFs can be used to (1) show how scarcity in water resources affects the tradeoffs between food and energy and (2) explore the political and social constraints that can move production away from what is feasible technically.

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