Optimize urban food production to address food deserts in regions with restricted water access

Daoqin Tong, Courtney Crosson, Qing Zhong, Yinan Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Adequate access to healthy, affordable food remains a great challenge in many urban areas. Among a range of interventions, urban agriculture has been identified as an important strategy to help address urban healthy food access. While urban food production is growing in popularity, the use of potable water in traditional urban agricultural installations will exacerbate gaps in water demand and availability in water-stressed cities. This paper examines the sustainable capability of urban agriculture through an integration of alternative water resources, urban vacant land and local nutritional needs. A spatial optimization model is developed to best allocate limited resources for maximal food production to address urban food deserts. The new model is applied to test the capability of relocalized food production in Tucson, Arizona, a semi-arid region with the longest continuously farmed landscape in North America. Results highlight that urban areas with restricted water access can substantially enhance their local food production capacity in an ecologically responsible manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103859
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Alternative water resource
  • Food desert
  • Spatial optimization
  • Urban agriculture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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