US EPA Southwestern Region to Add Footprint to its Dashboard

08/15/2011 10:00 PM

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 9, covering the Pacific Southwest, has contracted Global Footprint Network to conduct an Ecological Footprint analysis of California, which will be the first such in-depth look at the Footprint of a US state. The agency plans to incorporate the Ecological and water Footprints into a dashboard of sustainability indicators. EPA’s Region 9 serves Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands and 147 Tribes.

Global Footprint Network’s data will contribute to an analysis that will explore issues such as how much of harvested land is irrigated, how much of California’s biocapacity is occupied by built-up land, and what are the main drivers of ecological demand in the state. It will also explore new areas in Footprint and biocapacity research, such as how demand on biological and water resources could affect the state’s ecological productivity.

Using data from NASA’s plant growth index, the EPA will explore whether variations in Ecological Footprint have an impact on plant growth – a relationship that could suggest whether higher Footprints lead to lower biological productivity.  The EPA also plans to use data from the state Department of Water Resources and other sources to assess how much of California’s biocapacity is at risk due to water stress.

The project could provide a starting point for analyzing the US’s ecological demand on a state by state level.  “The agricultural and trade data for California are quite well defined, and offer us a level of resolution that can enable us to evaluate the state with the same methodology as a country analysis,” said Senior Project Manager David Moore. The resulting analysis, “could serve as a template for analyzing the Footprint that we could replicate across all 50 states.”

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