Water | Food | Energy | Nexus: Mega Trends and Scenarios for the Future
- Agriculture accounts for 70% of global water withdrawal. (FAO)
- Roughly 75% of all industrial water withdrawals are used for energy production. (UNESCO, 2014)
- The food production and supply chain accounts for about 30% of total global energy consumption. (UNESCO, 2012)
- 90% of global power generation is water-intensive. (UNESCO, 2014)
- Global water demand (in terms of water withdrawals) is projected to increase by 55% by 2050, mainly because of growing demands from manufacturing (400% increase). More than 40% of the global population is projected to be living in areas of severe water stress by 2050. (UNESCO, 2014)
- Power plant cooling is responsible for 43% of total freshwater withdrawals in Europe (more than 50% in several countries), nearly 50% in the United States of America, and more than 10% of the national water cap in China. (UNESCO, 2014)
- By 2035, water withdrawals for energy production could increase by 20% and consumption by 85%, driven via a shift towards higher efficiency power plants with more advanced cooling systems (that reduce water withdrawals but increase consumption) and increased production of biofuel. (UNESCO, 2014)
- There is clear evidence that groundwater supplies are diminishing, with an estimated 20% of the world’s aquifers being over-exploited, some critically so. Deterioration of wetlands worldwide is reducing the capacity of ecosystems to purify water. (UNESCO, 2014)
- It typically takes 3,000 – 5,000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of rice, 2,000 litres for 1kg of soya, 900 litres for 1kg of wheat and 500 litres for 1kg of potatoes. (WWF).
- While almost 800 million people are currently hungry, by 2050 global food production would need to increase by 50% to feed the more than 9 billion people projected who live on our planet (FAO/IFAD/UNICEF/WFP/WHO, 2017).
From Background paper for the Bonn 2011 Nexus Conference: THE WATER, ENERGY AND FOOD SECURITY NEXUS
From How Shell, Chevron and Coke tackle the energy-water-food nexus
We know how important food, water and energy are to our daily lives, but what happens when we fail to value them as critical, interconnected resources for our economy?
In the summer of 2012, the U.S. was affected by one of the worst droughts in recent decades. Eighty percent of U.S. farms and ranches were affected, crop losses exceeded $20 billion and unforeseen ripple effects followed.
With corn crops withering from the lack of rainfall, prices for food and livestock feed supplies rose, as did ethanol, predominantly sourced from corn. Numerous power plants had to scale back operations or even shut down because the water temperatures of many rivers, lakes and estuaries had increased to the point where they could not be used for cooling. Household, municipal and farm wells in the Midwest had to be extended deeper into rapidly depleting aquifers to make up for the lack of rainfall, draining groundwater supplies and demanding more electricity to run the pumps. It is estimated that consumers will feel these ripple effects for years to come — over the next year alone, this impact could result in personal costs up to $50 billion.
Now more than ever, our infrastructure is built on an interlinked system for the production and use of energy, water and food. Water is needed for almost all forms of energy production and power generation, energy is required to treat and transport water, and both water and energy are needed to produce food.
This interconnection, or energy-water-food nexus, underscores the global challenges that we face as a society. The growing global population, increased wealth and urbanization will continue to stress energy, water and food supplies. Climate change and unsustainable development practices will exacerbate them. In preparing for a population that could top 10 billion by 2050, according to U.N. estimates, in the next 15 to 20 years alone we will need 30 percent more water, 45 percent more energy and 50 percent more food.
Consvation International’s Business & Sustainability Council (PDF) examined the corporate risk and opportunities related to the energy-water-food nexus. The nexus is still new in the minds of many corporations, but CI sees several examples of companies broadening their strategies to build synergistic solutions.
Shell shines the spotlight on the pressures from the energy-water-food stress nexus in its 2013 report, “The New Lens Scenario.” The company is using scenario planning to test and collaborate on the design of synergistic solutions to tackle these interlinked resource constraints. In British Columbia, Shell collaborated with the city of Dawson Creek to build a reclaimed water facility that virtually eliminated its need to draw on local freshwater sources for the operation of a natural gas venture. It also worked with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the University of Utrecht to develop a new methodology that could more accurately estimate the amount of water needed to generate energy from different sources — oil, gas, coal, nuclear and biofuels — using different technologies and in different locations.
In Kern County, about 100 miles from Los Angeles and home to Chevron’s largest California oil field, Chevron partnered with the Cawelo Water District to provide much needed water to local farmers for agricultural use. Water is a significant byproduct from steam flooding, a technology employed to extract thick, viscous oil out of the ground. For every barrel of oil, 10 barrels of water are produced, about 700,000 gallons per day. Chevron reclaims about one-third to generate new steam, and provides most of the remaining treated water to the Cawelo Water District to distribute to 160 farmers to irrigate 45,000 acres of crops, such as almonds, grapes, pistachios and citrus. This innovative solution is critical to creating a more sustainable local water supply and helping Kern County growers keep agriculture thriving in the region.
Since 2005, The Coca-Cola Company has set an ambitious water security commitment for its beverages and operations. In order to meet its goal, it implemented a series of technical and natural solutions in nearly 400 community water projects in more than 90 countries. These community water partnerships include rainwater harvesting, drip irrigation, agricultural water efficiency improvements and protecting watersheds. The company has taken an even broader perspective, enhancing the ability of watersheds to absorb threats associated with the uncertainties around climate change, and increased demands for water, energy and food from a burgeoning population.
Ensuring energy, water and food security on a global level requires equal consideration of the interdependency among all three systems and the underlying natural capital that supports them.
CI believes that addressing the stress nexus requires collaboration among government, business and civil society. Public-private partnerships offer an innovative way to leverage expertise and financing in order to pilot practical, scalable and collaborative solutions. The Sustainable Landscape Partnership being piloted in Indonesia with support from CI, USAID and the Walton Family Foundation looks to understand integrated approaches to build local economies while reducing deforestation and ensuring food and water security.
Lack of data specific to the nexus is currently a limiting factor in building solutions. Improved frameworks to price natural resources such as water will be critical — one reason CI is engaged with WAVES and the TEEB for Business Coalition. CI is also piloting a game-changing monitoring system called Vital Signs in Africa to provide near real-time ecological and social data and diagnostic tools to guide agricultural development decisions and monitor their outcomes. As we continue to pilot models that demonstrate resiliency of landscapes, open platforms for information sharing will generate innovations and efficiencies.
Combined together, this integrated approach will be critical to fully understanding where critical nexus interactions lie, where they are most susceptible and how we can meaningfully make better decisions, for this generation and the next.
Please see my related post:
Key Sources of Research:
World Water Development Report 2014
Nexus in the Media
Tools and Databases
The Energy-Water-Food Nexus: The Emerging Challenge to Sustainable Prosperity
The Food, Water, Energy Nexus
Asian Development Bank
How Shell, Chevron and Coke tackle the energy-water-food nexus
Understanding the Stress Nexus
The Energy | Water | Food Nexus
Energy-water-food stress nexus
Royal Geographical Society
A review of the current state of research on the water, energy, and food nexus
The Water–Energy–Food Security Nexus: Towards a practical planning and decision-support framework for landscape investment and risk management
Henry David Venema
Tracing the water-energy-food nexus: description, theory and practice.
Leck, Hayley, Conway, Declan, Bradshaw, Michael and Rees, Judith A.
Geography Compass, 9 (8). pp. 445-460. ISSN 1749-8198
BRIDGING THE WATER AND FOOD GAP: THE ROLE OF THE
RABI H. MOHTAR,
AMJAD T. ASSI,
BASSEL T. DAHER
United Nations University
Tools for analyzing the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus
Compiled for UNECE by the Energy Systems Analysis group of the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm
Energy -Water-Food Nexus
D.L. Keairns, R.C. Darton, and A. Irabien
Understanding the Energy-Water Nexus
Bob van der Zwaan
“Towards sustainable synergy between water, energy and food”
WATER-ENERGY-FOOD NEXUS FOR THE REVIEW OF SDG 7
GOVERNANCE IN THE WATER-ENERGY-FOOD NEXUS:
GAPS AND FUTURE RESEARCH NEEDS
Nina Weitz, Claudia Strambo, Eric Kemp-Benedict, Måns Nilsson
Water, Food and Energy
WATER, FOOD AND ENERGY NEXUS CHALLENGES
A bottom-up approach to the nexus of energy, food and water security in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region
Prof. Subhes Bhattacharyya
Mr. Nicola Bugatti
Mr. Hannes Bauer
Understanding the Nexus. Background Paper for the Bonn2011
Conference: The Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus.
Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm.
Anatomy of a buzzword: the emergence of ‘the
water-energy-food nexus’ in UK natural resource debates
Understanding the Nexus of Food, Water, and Energy
A quick scan
Stijn Reinhard, Jan Verhagen, Wouter Wolters and Ruerd Ruben
The Circular Economy and the Water-Energy-Food Nexus
The global food – water – energy nexus
Water Food Energy Climate Nexus
World Economic Forum
Development of Pardee Rand Water Energy Food Security Index
Review of the Current State of Research on the Water, Energy, and
Aiko Endo, Izumi Tsurita, Kimberly Burnett,
And Pedcris M. Orencio
Mitigating Risks and Vulnerabilities in the Energy-Food-Water Nexus in Developing Countries
CARBOHYDRATES, H2O, AND HYDROCARBONS:
GRAIN SUPPLY SECURITY AND THE FOOD-WATERENERGY
NEXUS IN THE ARABIAN GULF REGION
Gabriel Collins, J.D.
Baker Botts Fellow in Energy & Environmental Regulatory Affairs
Managing the food,water,and energy nexus for achieving the
Sustainable Development Goals in South Asia
The Water-Energy Nexus and Urban Metabolism – Connections in Cities
Thinking about Water Differently
Managing the Water–Food–Energy Nexus
Walking the Nexus Talk:
Assessing the Water-Energy-Food Nexus
in the Context of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative
The 15 projects that will take on the food-water-energy nexus
WATER-FOOD-ENERGY NEXUS IN ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
Food, Water and Energy Nexus in India
The Food-Energy-Water Nexus
University of Montana
Water–food–energy nexus with changing agricultural scenarios in
India during recent decades
Beas Barik1, Subimal Ghosh1,2, A. Saheer Sahana1, Amey Pathak1, and Muddu Sekhar
The Energy–Water–Food Nexus at Decentralized Scales
Lucy Stevens and Mary Gallagher, Practical Action, UK
Making governance work for water–energy–food nexus approaches
By Andrew Scott
Food, Water and Energy: Know the Nexus
Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds
a publication of the National Intelligence Council
PARADOX OF PROGRESS
A publication of the National Intelligence Council
Understanding Water- Energy-
Food Nexus from Mountain Perspective
David Molden, Aditi Mukherji, Golam Rasul, Arun Shrestha,
Ramesh Vaidya, Shahriar M. Wahid and Philippus Wester
Regulating the water-energy-food nexus: Interdependencies, transaction costs and procedural justice
Innovating at the food, water, and energy interface
The Water-Energy-Food Nexus. A New Approach in Support of Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture