CEE Seminar: What Would Thomas Malthus Tell Us In The 21st Century? Experiences In The Water-Energy-Food Nexus From An International Development Perspective

Engineering Hall 2430 Colloquia Room
Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm, Ph.D.

Professor & Director
Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center
University of Maryland



Abstract: Ongoing research focused on analyzing the synergies and tradeoffs posed by the water-energy-food nexus is presented. This covers the need for quantitative tools (e.g., data, models) to support the analysis of integrated water, energy and food systems, from three perspectives relevant to the work of international development organizations: dialog with countries and increasing awareness of “nexus” thinking and planning, building regional and in-country capacity toward integrated planning and identification/evaluation of trade-offs and synergies in developing such systems, and fostering interdisciplinary expertise in principles, algorithms, and model formulations for understanding and evaluating the potential of implementing nexus approaches within a systems perspective. This research stresses the necessity of integrating areas of disciplinary expertise, the ability to identify and address shared needs of water, energy and food  stakeholders, and facilitating tailored analyses over different spatial and temporal scales. Outputs and products of recent nexus work will highlight further research and development needs focused on upstream sector planning in order to identify primary opportunities and constraints to water, energy, and food system development, and also result in an improved understanding of economic and social trade-offs among competing nexus priorities, and particularly prioritization of sector investments. Three recent studies in South Africa, China and Latin America are presented as examples of nexus tradeoffs offering a rationale for investment rationalization and priorities.

Biography: Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm is a hydrologist with research interests in modeling of surface and groundwater systems, climate-hydrology-vegetation interactions, water quality and modeling of the water-energy-food nexus. He has been a principal investigator in research sponsored by NASA, NOAA, NSF, USDA, USAID, the World Bank and other agencies, and has worked as a consultant in water resources projects in all five continents for over 20 years. Prior to his appointment at UMD, he served on the faculty at Northeastern University, the University of Miami, and Florida International University. He also spent 5 years as a civil servant in the Water and Sanitation Division of the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington DC. He earned a mechanical engineering diploma from Universidad Simón Bolívar in Caracas, Venezuela (1987), a M.S. in engineering from the University of California, Irvine (1989), and a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1993). Fernando is a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and a Diplomate of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and the American Academy of Water Resources Engineers. He is a registered Professional Engineer in the states of Massachusetts and Florida.

He lives in Bethesda MD with his wife, Monica, and is the father of two UMD Terps (Andrea, class of ’18 and Adriana, class of ’20). On nice sunny days, you will most likely find him playing tennis at NASA Goddard, or on the Capital Crescent Trail on his running shoes, his bike, roller blades or his Sector 9 longboard.