Future Earth Water-Energy-Food Nexus

Photo: Erik Pihl
The Research and Engagement Plan of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus Knowledge-Action Network is now available. To download the report and read more about it, click here.

Delivering water, energy and food for all in a sustainable and equitable way is one of the major challenges faced by our societies. Future Earth will support this goal by providing the knowledge needed to understand how interactions between water, energy and food are shaped by environmental, economic, social and political changes and how the synergies and trade-offs among them can be better planned and managed.

Interactions between water, energy and food systems are manifold (see figure below). Energy is required to process and distribute water, water is central for nearly all forms of energy production, and both energy and water are key to any food enterprise. These interactions intensify as the demand for resources increases with population growth and the move towards ever more resource-intensive lifestyles. By 2050, according to most of the baseline scenarios, the demand for energy will nearly double while water and food demand is expected to increase by over 50%.  These dynamics are combined with major trends such as climate and land use change, and the depletion of natural resources, which already limit the ability of existing systems to meet growing demands.  Integrated resource management for food, energy and water is required to face, as well as to curb, these trends that already threatens food, water and/or energy security and sustainable development in many places of the world.

In addition, a significant part of the global population still lacks access to electricity (1.06 billion in 2014 according to the World Bank), safely managed drinking water (2.1 billion in 2015 according to WHO and UNICEF) and food (815 million undernourished people in 2016 according to FAO). Thus, solutions towards an improved and integrated resource management for water, energy and food will also need to overcome this access deficit.

Future Earth’s Water-Energy-Food Nexus Knowledge-Action Network is a network of people and organisations which aims to address nexus challenges by fostering transdisciplinary research and communicating the importance of holistic system approaches across water, energy and food systems.  The Water-Energy-Food Nexus Knowledge-Action Network is unique in that it is not dominated by any one of the three sectors, instead providing a truly independent and balanced platform for discussion and agenda setting.  With the involvement of Future Earth’s Global Research Projects and the former Future Earth Cluster Activity on Sustainability for water, energy and food through integrated water information and improved governance, the Water-Energy-Food Nexus Knowledge-Action Network aims to break down the silo-thinking which inhibits transdisciplinary research and solutions by bringing together stakeholders and experts in water, energy, land and food from across the disciplines. 

Examples of connections between water, energy and food systems. Adapted from United Nations Economic Commission for Europe 2016.

Contact: fwe.nexus@futureearth.org