On September 8-9, 2016, a group of University of Alaska researchers held a workshop entitled "The Food-Energy-Water (FEW) Nexus in Islanded Communities and High Latitudes: Issues, Pathways, and Implications." The event was the first of its kind to focus on the unique challenges of FEW initiatives in cold or high-latitude environments or in islanded communities. It brought together a group of interdisciplinary researchers and community members to share and prioritize their top concerns, to examine the connections among availability and use of FEW resources, and to determine the best approaches to sustainably meet the FEW needs of isolated communities, especially those at high latitudes. For comprehensive information about the workshop, as well as a pair of related FEW initiatives, please see the Final Workshop Report.
The main thematic areas of the workshop were:
• Infrastructure Engineering includes topics such as efficient greenhouses; improved equipment to store and manage intermittent energy loads from renewables; and infrastructure to affordably provide clean drinking water and proper sewage disposal.
• Environmental Engineering includes topics such as bioaccumulated toxins in subsistence foods, and the high energy levels needed to provide clean water in islanded communities.
• Society and Economy includes topics such as the cost of food imports, the rising energy requirements (and hence prices) of subsistence practices, and the need for improved security of water sources.
The workshop was sponsored by the National Science Foundation's Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (Award #CBET-1622408) and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Alaska NSF EPSCoR and the UAF Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Research coordinated the event, and the UAF Geophysical Institute Business Office provided fiscal management and additional support with travel coordination. The workshop led to collaboration, idea generation, and concrete results, most notably a $2.5 million INFEWS/T3 award to a group of UA researchers entitled "Coupling infrastructure improvements to food-energy-water system dynamics in small cold region communities: MicroFEWs." More details about the MicroFEWs project, as well as another FEW program, the Arctic Remote Energy Networks Academy, are available in the final workshop report.