Trade-offs between competing claims on scarce water resources are nothing new. The water-energy-food nexus centers on the interaction between the two factors that have most impact on the availability of freshwater: energy and food production. Global challenges like the rising population and higher standards of living drive demand for energy, food and water, forcing us to look for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. An understanding of the water-energy-food nexus is crucial here, as are interventions that can resolve shortages without causing new problems in another sector.
This nexus can also be seen in the context of two important international agreements that were reached in 2015 – the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the UN FCCC Paris Agreement. The Sustainable Development Goals, and particularly goals 2 (hunger and food security), 6 (water and sanitation), 7 (energy) and 15 (biodiversity, forest and desertification) explicitly address the components of the WEF nexus. The Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to ‘well below 2⁰C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees’. Further reductions in emissions will therefore be needed, and renewable energy can play an important role.
Connectivity and trade-offs
In our Water-Energy-Food nexus programme, Deltares will contribute our high-level knowledge. The aim is not only to establish an understanding of the connectivity and trade-offs in the nexus. We will also provide knowledge-based support for decision-making about alternative nexus strategies. In addition, we will draw on case experience to advise on ways of implementing nexus strategies in different cultural and governance settings. We focus on three research lines:
- Assessment frameworks that can show whether WEF nexus strategies contribute to socially inclusive green growth
- Models and tools to quantify the impacts of WEF nexus strategies on various actors/drivers in the context of different climate-change and socio-economic scenarios
- Combining the local and global scales – The practical challenges facing innovative solutions are seen at the local level. At the global level, a picture can be established of how specific approaches can be used to tackle global challenges. A global perspective shows where certain problems are most urgent or where certain solutions can be most effective. Activities at the two levels all benefit if we can work both locally and globally, and draw on insights on both scales.