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Water, food and energy nexus

 

Water, energy and food are inextricably linked. Water is an input for producing agricultural goods in the fields and along the entire agro-food supply chain. Energy is required to produce and distribute water and food: to pump water from groundwater or surface water sources, to power tractors and irrigation machinery, and to process and transport agricultural goods.

Agriculture is currently the largest user of water at the global level, accounting for 70% of total withdrawal. The food production and supply chain accounts for about 30% of total global energy consumption.

There are many synergies and trade-offs between water and energy use and food production. Using water to irrigate crops might promote food production but it can also reduce river flows and hydropower potential. Growing bioenergy crops under irrigated agriculture can increase overall water withdrawals and jeopardize food security. Converting surface irrigation into high efficiency pressurized irrigation may save water but may also result in higher energy use. Recognizing these synergies and balancing these trade-offs is central to jointly ensuring water, energy and food security.

The global community is well aware of food, energy and water challenges, but has so far addressed them in isolation, within sectoral boundaries. At the country level, fragmented sectoral responsibilities, lack of coordination, and inconsistencies between laws and regulatory frameworks may lead to misaligned incentives. If water, energy and food security are to be simultaneously achieved, decision-makers, including those responsible for only a single sector, need to consider broader influences and cross-sectoral impacts. A nexus approach to sectoral management, through enhanced dialogue, collaboration and coordination, is needed to ensure that co-benefits and trade-offs are considered and that appropriate safeguards are put in place.

 

Source: World Water Development Report 2014

 

Last update:07 Oct 2014