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Water International Special Issue // Sustainability in the Water–Energy–Food Nexus

This special issue is an outcome of that conference, and contains significant pieces of work on the WEF nexus that were presented at the conference focusing on relevant tools, solutions and governance at different scales. Together, the articles in this special issue contribute to answering two key questions: How can the WEF nexus be implemented across scales? And how can governance and management practices reduce trade-offs and exploit synergies? The special issue features 12 articles that are divided into two sections according to the two thematic questions. Articles under the scale and implementation theme discuss challenges, assessment tools and solutions for implementing nexus approaches at different scales and how these scales are linked with one another through synergies and trade-offs. Articles under the governance and management theme address different mechanisms and institutional arrangements that can support a paradigm shift away from disjointed policies. Articles also focus on government initiatives that take into account the complexity of linkages between water, food and energy to maximize positive results and minimize harmful impacts.

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Today we are more than ever convinced that security in food, energy and water is interwoven with human, economic and environmental sustainability, and that this interplay is strengthening under growing natural resource scarcity and climate change. This recognition suggests that policy making and decision making for sustainability could benefit from a holistic nexus approach that reduces trade-offs and builds synergies across sectors, and thus helps reduce costs and increase benefits for humans and nature, as compared to independent approaches to the management of water, energy and food, without compromising the resource basis on which humanity relies. In the past, research and policy work related to the nexus has looked at the interactions between water and food or water and energy, but given political and institutional realities there has been a reluctance to bring forward a broader systemic perspective to capture the dependencies across multiple sectors and resources. At the same time, the cost to the environment of neglecting these linkages has increased. The players in the nexus approach are public, private and civil society at local and broader human scales. Recognizing the urgent need to focus on sustainability in the water–energy–food nexus (WEF nexus) together with tools to analyze and approaches to govern the linkages at different scales, the Global Water System Project, the United Nations Environment Programme, the Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik, the Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, and the CGIAR Research Program on Water Land and Ecosystems organized an international conference, Sustainability in the Water-Energy-Food Nexus, in Bonn, Germany, in 2014. The conference addressed sustainability in the WEF nexus as a key research-for-action initiative, and included an international policy consultation process to inform, influence and catalyze action of policy makers, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, educators and researchers towards a nexus approach that both draws on and supports the environment. The conference brought together available information, identified knowledge and action gaps, shared lessons on viable instruments and approaches, facilitated networks, and contributed to consensus on priorities for appropriate investment and action by different actors and stakeholders for moving towards action on the WEF nexus.


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  • Introduction
    By Anik Bhaduri, Claudia Ringler, Ines Dombrowsky, Rabi Mohtar and Waltina Scheumann
  • Water–energy–food (WEF) Nexus Tool 2.0: guiding integrative resource planning and decision-making
    By Bassel T. Daher and Rabi H. Mohtar
  • Application of a water–energy–food nexus framework for the Duero river basin in Spain
    By Beatriz Mayor, Elena López-Gunn, Fermín I. Villarroya and Esperanza Montero
  • The impact of water users’ associations on the productivity of irrigated agriculture in Pakistani Punjab
    By Dawit K. Mekonnen, Hira Channa and Claudia Ringler
  • Bioenergy, food security and poverty reduction: trade-offs and synergies along the water-energy-food security nexus
    By Alisher Mirzabaev, Dawit Guta, Jann Goedecke, Varun Gaur, Jan Börner, Detlef Virchow, Manfred Denich and Joachim von Braun
  • Water-energy-food nexus in a transboundary context: the Euphrates–Tigris river basin as a case study
    By Aysegül Kibaroglu and Sezin Iba Gürsoy




Water International, Vol. 40, 2015, Issue 5-6: Sustainablity in the water-energy-food nexus

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