Visualization of the optimal management policies as a function of available amount of conventional energy and water resources, for each crop across four seasons. © The authors
System-level integration and optimization of food-energy-water systems (FEWS) require coordination of multiple agencies and decision-makers and incorporating their interdependence. In general, such coordination might be hard to achieve. As a result, the literature on FEWS management either optimizes the operations for one sector (or one decision-maker), or models interdependence among the sectors without optimizing their operations. In this article, we develop a novel multi-agent management optimization approach that is able to incorporate stochasticity and uncertainty in the system's dynamics and interdependence of the water and energy resources for food production. The proposed method is the first attempt to utilize fundamentals of decision and game theories to optimize operations of multi-agent FEWS. We specifically focus on differentiating between (1) cooperative decision optimization of the operations, where all decision-makers cooperate to achieve the best outcome for the whole system, the social optimum, and (2) non-cooperative decision-making of the agents, the Nash equilibrium. Illustrating with a real-world case study of FEWS in Ventura County, California, we show the difference between the cooperative and non-cooperative decision making in terms of long-term expected cost of managing the system. We further show how the extra costs associated with utilizing the renewable sources of water and energy could be incentivised, so that the non-cooperative solution (the Nash equilibrium) would naturally converge to the best outcome for the whole system (the social optimum).
Milad Memarzadeh et al 2020 Environ. Res. Lett. 15 0940a4