Water-Food-Energy Nexus


Integrating data and drawing connections between human-environment interaction allow recognition and incorporation of multiple perspectives of the water-food-energy-climate change nexus across various geographic scales.

Working with the ‘nexus’ can bring to light unasked questions and can help reduce unintended 2nd and 3rd order effects.

Around the world, stability and security are tied to water. Water is needed to stabilize population movement, to support agriculture, to generate energy, and to sustain public health. Today regions globally face profound water challenges–tied to food, energy, climate variability, and population dynamics–that can exacerbate ethnic and political tension and negatively affect economic and social wellbeing.Regional economic development often hinges on effective management of water resources at the watershed scale.

“Water security” means the guarantee of having an adequate supply of water and having it accessible so that everyone who needs clean water can obtain enough of it when – and where – they need it.




Water links to Food links to Energy links to People links to Climate Change


Questions and problems that are geographic in nature (and represented by the Five Themes) can be tied to the water-food-energy-climate change nexus.  An understanding of the inextricable links between the systems of water, food, energy and climate is critical to make informed decisions regarding trade-offs between these systems, rather than suffer unintended consequences.   

Water security is the keystone of the water-energy-food-climate change nexus.  To grasp the complexity of water security issues as they relate to watersheds, megacities, and resource management, the issues must be put into this context.  Food production requires water and energy; water extraction and distribution require energy; and energy production requires water. Agriculture is the single largest consumer of water worldwide, and rapidly growing urban populations require safe, clean drinking water and adequate sanitation, as well as more food. Expected impacts of climate change on water resources increase the urgency of finding new ways to balance urban and rural needs in a sustainable way that ensures the continued health of freshwater ecosystems.

Rapid growth anticipated over the next twenty years will intensify global demands for water, food, and energy.  Demand drivers include population growth (from 6.83 billion to 8 billion, largely in the developing world), economic growth (particularly emerging markets with estimated 6 percent growth over 2.7 percent of higher-income countries), and urbanization (focus being megacities in developing countries), while climate change, and the potential for poorly constructed policy responses to it, will add pressure to these challenges.    

In terms of understanding water’s role in the nexus connections, it is helpful to work from a watershed, or basin, perspective.  As eloquently stated by  John Wesley Powell, a scientist and geographer, a watershed is: “That area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community.”

Water in the context of National Security

 

The likelihood of water destabilizing a population increases when climate variability, geopolitical tension, and economic disparities at the subnational, national, regional, and local levels are part of the equation. Hence, water management requires understanding a myriad of water demands and considerations: competition for water use (agricultural, industrial, and household); competing water needs (rural, low density vs. urban, high density populations); over-exploitation of commonly held surface water supplies; control of groundwater resources (private vs. public; vulnerability to unregulated withdrawal); transboundary watershed management (upstream vs. downstream expectations and agreements); inequitable (gender, ethnic, socio-economic) water access; and impact (social, ecological, and economic) of large-scale water projects.

Water complexities

Water  is tied to its quantity, quality, availability, and accessibility when it’s seen in the context of economic, social, and political security and stability.

·      Water quantity is the amount of surface and/or ground water (also referred to as water supply). It is the measurement used to described water extremes—floods and droughts—as well as river discharge and groundwater withdrawal rates. 

·      Water quality is the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of water, related to its suitability for various uses. 

·      Water availability has to do with whether or not there is water to meet the variety of uses.  Availability may change seasonally, as seen with monsoon rains, or it may be consistent year-round. 

·      Water accessibility has to do with socio-cultural access and also to the transaction cost (time, distance, money) of acquiring water. These characteristics, subject to spatial-temporal variability, are interrelated. Changes in any one factor often affect the other factors.  

The California South Bay Salt Pond Restoration project is an example of a nexus approach to problem solving.  Taking a public-private partnership approach, local, state, and federal government groups collaborate with private industry in San Fransico Bay to restore tidal marsh wetlands.

Water-Food-Energy Nexus


Integrating data and drawing connections between human-environment interaction allow recognition and incorporation of multiple perspectives of the water-food-energy-climate change nexus across various geographic scales.

Working with the ‘nexus’ can bring to light unasked questions and can help reduce unintended 2nd and 3rd order effects.

Around the world, stability and security are tied to water. Water is needed to stabilize population movement, to support agriculture, to generate energy, and to sustain public health. Today regions globally face profound water challenges–tied to food, energy, climate variability, and population dynamics–that can exacerbate ethnic and political tension and negatively affect economic and social wellbeing.Regional economic development often hinges on effective management of water resources at the watershed scale.

In terms of understanding water’s role in the nexus connections, it is helpful to work from a watershed, or basin, perspective.  As eloquently stated by  John Wesley Powell, a scientist and geographer, a watershed is: “That area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community.”

“Water security” means the guarantee of having an adequate supply of water and having it accessible so that everyone who needs clean water can obtain enough of it when – and where – they need it.

Water  is tied to its quantity, quality, availability, and accessibility when it’s seen in the context of economic, social, and political security and stability.

Water links to Food links to Energy links to People links to Climate Change

·      Water quantity is the amount of surface and/or ground water (also referred to as water supply). It is the measurement used to described water extremes—floods and droughts—as well as river discharge and groundwater withdrawal rates. 

·      Water quality is the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of water, related to its suitability for various uses. 

·      Water availability has to do with whether or not there is water to meet the variety of uses.  Availability may change seasonally, as seen with monsoon rains, or it may be consistent year-round. 

·      Water accessibility has to do with socio-cultural access and also to the transaction cost (time, distance, money) of acquiring water. These characteristics, subject to spatial-temporal variability, are interrelated. Changes in any one factor often affect the other factors.  

The California South Bay Salt Pond Restoration project is an example of a nexus approach to problem solving.  Taking a public-private partnership approach, local, state, and federal government groups collaborate with private industry in San Fransico Bay to restore tidal marsh wetlands.