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SWWW 2018 Outcomes // Asia Focus - Tackling the Water-Energy-Ecosystems-Food Nexus

This session examined all four aspects of the Nexus and attempted to uncover the complex nature of the Water, Energy, Ecosystems, Food Nexus. Each aspect of the Nexus was discussed individually to contribute to a greater conversation concerning pathways to greater cooperation between sectors.

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The SWWW 2018 Outcomes series provides access to key resources and highlights the main takeaways from panel sessions at Stockholm Water Week 2018 related to the water-energy-food Nexus.

Water, energy, land and ecosystems are essential for satisfying basic human needs and development. Access to these resources and their sustainable management are the basis for smart, equitable and sustainable development. Sector policies regarding water, energy, land and ecosystems have deep and consequential relationships. Policies from one sector often entail consequences for the other three sectors, be on a local, national, regional or global scale.

With the world population predicted to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050, with 8.3 billion people living in developing countries. With among the ten largest countries in the world, five are in Asia (Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan), this stresses urgency for managing natural resources in the Asia Region. We will be required to increase food production by 60% during the next 40 years in order to feed the growing world population. Meanwhile, there is little room for increasing the amount of irrigated water against competitive water demands.


The Asian region, especially within the agricultural sector, is in the midst of two momentous and complex transitions:

  1. Structural transformation linked to fast, if uneven, economic growth which often leaves agricultural incomes stagnant as other incomes grow, widening the income gap further each year;
  2. A movement to towards more sustainable practices that absolutely must occur to reverse the unmaintainable use and degradation of the region’s limited natural resource base. In order to address these challenges, this session approached the competing demands within the water energy food nexus by focusing in on the question, “Is technology a force for good, or a force to be calculated with caution. As growing competition for limited resources within the water-energy-ecosystems-food nexus begin to pressure society. The session ensured gender balanced teams of speakers, including the participation of two young professionals.

Debaters pointed out the positive and negative impacts of technologies. While some technologies can bring benefits and new opportunities for people and communities, others result in increased water scarcity by demanding an increasing amount of water, resulting in a conflict of interest among key stakeholders in the water cycle. The main debate addressed the balance between stakeholders for water demands, leading to questions regarding the regulatory and policy environment to appropriately address the negative impacts or tradeoffs as a result of the interconnected nature of the nexus, rather than the technologies themselves. It is necessary to focus on the processes and procedures to address nexus issues by the adoption of the appropriate technologies, policies and institutions based on an analysis of the social, economic and physical environment to achieve fit-for-purpose solutions on a case by case basis.

Overall, this session implied that win-win solutions are very limited. It is thus important to examine ways to minimize negative externalities by adopting and adapting technologies using information and participative approaches and consulting key stakeholders in order to appropriately address nexus issues.


  • Ensuring that negative and positive externalities are fully accounted for in an environmental impact analysis of technologies that interfere with any paradigm of the nexus.
  • Ensuring the use of spatial and temporal data to inform policy decision-making.
  • A longer term approach would involve promoting nexus risks in professional and educational training.


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