Sustainable Water-Energy-Food Nexus Working Group


This transdisciplinary working group will draw expertise from researchers with a wide range of scientific backgrounds representing study regions in Asia, Africa, Oceania, Europe and the Americas. It brings together several ongoing initiatives and research groups like ‘Food, Energy, Environment and Water’ (FE2W) global initiative; Water-Energy-Food Security Alliance, Australia; WEF security resources platform (GIZ); TH Köln WEF research focus; WEF Nexus group of CNRD network; Texas A&M WEF Nexus Research Group. Through these initiatives a global coverage of experts and a close cooperation with practice will be achieved.

The major goals of the working group are to advance and exchange cutting edge “Nexus” research, to apply it in pilot regions in close cooperation with stakeholders and to disseminate the findings in an adequate form to the scientific community and to decision makers.


Advancing an analytical framework

  • A program of collaborative research, monitoring and decision tool development on water-energy-food nexus research.
  • Setting up a state of art knowledge platform on the WEF Nexus data sources, analysis and assessment tools.

Co-design process / pilot applications

  • Identify pilot case studies (typically river basins) in which the scientific tools are applied and partnerships with stakeholders are established.
  • Co-design innovative tools and alternative options to enhance profitability and sustainability of water, land and energy resources, while reducing adverse environmental (including greenhouse gas) impacts.
  • Understanding knowledge for the future, with quality science and an evidence base targeting state, national and international policy concerns, with findings and insights encouraged,  integrated and adopted by industry.

Creating useful results for management and society

  • Developing WEF nexus indicators, thresholds and scenarios in line with societal demands.
  • Informed trade-off analyses between different resource allocation strategies, while accounting for externalities such as population growth, economic development, governance, and climate.
  • Coordinating pilot demonstration trials involving water and energy utilities, and agribusiness that are transferable to different geographic and economic settings.
  • To devise pathways to effectively manage drought and water-stress risks through the Water-43 Energy-Food (WEF) nexus approach especially at river basin scale using state of the art satellite technology in combination with local knowledge.

Communication and dissemination of knowledge

  • Developing analytical platforms for previously identified stakeholders to quantify and model WEF systems.
  • Disseminate best practice project results in line with the Water Solution Labs.
  • Capacity building and training, especially designing and engaging in a transdisciplinary learning, capacity building and reflection process
  • To establish a Nexus Community of Practice and a Centre of Excellence for research focused on WEF Nexus topics.



In a carbon constrained future, with more regular El Nino drying events and a growing population, sufficient food will need to be secured with optimal water and energy use. Currently, the rising costs for direct and indirect energy is affecting the ability to deliver secure and efficient water supplies and economically viable food production. Direct energy use for urban water treatment and transport is anticipated to increase significantly, due largely to a combination of population growth and increased reliance on “climate resilient” water supplies, and gas prices are anticipated to increase as supply decreases. A small reduction in water-related energy usage in urban settings could create significant cost savings on energy. For many countries, pumping water for irrigation and storage demands comprises the majority of total energy supplied in rural areas. When electricity prices have escalated significantly this has in some cases resulted in growers reducing irrigation application below optimum requirements. In addition to the stressors of climate variability and climate change, increasing energy costs and drivers for water, nutrient and greenhouse gas efficiency, are further impacting farming communities. Increasing energy costs are one of the major challenges facing global agriculture. Further, the embodied water and energy in food supplies for the urban population is not considered in energy and water accounting. With the increasing focus on agricultural expansion to support a growing global population, understanding these costs and alternatives, are crucial.

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