event 06 sept. 2021

Research article // Multi-scale analysis of the water-energy-food nexus in the Gulf region

By Christian Siderius, Declan Conway, Mohamed Yassine, Lisa Murken, Pierre-Louis Lostis and Carole Dalin. The aim of this paper is to characterise in a quantitative fashion the multiple scales of the WEF nexus for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), using three characteristic GCC states as examples; Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, covering the largest and most populous GCC state (Saudi Arabia) with a considerable agriculture sector, a city state depending on oil exports (Kuwait) and a city state with a more diverse economy but still high dependence on gas exports (Qatar). The authors examine the nexus at three scales and their dynamics through time: the domestic nexus, which involves internal dependencies, trade-offs, and co-benefits amongst WEF nexus resources within the country; the international nexus, with exports and imports linking a country's domestic nexus to those in the countries it imports from, and, finally; the global scale through an illustrative example of the extent to which climate change mitigation policy might impact oil revenues.

Virtual water imports to Kuwait Qatar and Saudi Arabia

Virtual water imports to Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in rice and wheat produced with unsustainable groundwater (based on Dalin et al [18]), as an average over 2000–2016, with totals in MCM. The colour of the ribbon, in lighter shade, corresponds with the border colour of the exporting countries. Note the difference in total GWD between rice and wheat. © The authors


We quantify the heavily oil-dominated WEF nexus in three Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia) across spatial scales and over time, using available empirical data at the national level, and explore the exposure to nexus stresses (groundwater depletion) in other countries through virtual water trade. At the domestic scale, WEF trade-offs are fairly limited; while all sectors require considerable amounts of energy, the requirements for water and food production are modest compared to other uses. At the international scale, revenues from oil exports in the GCC allow the region to compensate for low food production and scarce water availability. This dependency is dynamic over time, increasing when oil prices are low and food prices are high. The authors show how reducing domestic trade-offs can lead to higher exposure internationally, with rice imports originating in regions where groundwater is being depleted. However, Saudi Arabia's increased wheat imports, after reversing its food self-sufficiency policy, have had limited effects on groundwater depletion elsewhere. Climate change mitigation links the WEF nexus to the global scale. While there is great uncertainty about future international climate policy, our analysis illustrates how implementation of measures to account for the social costs of carbon would reduce the oil and gas revenues available to import food and desalinate water in the GCC.


August 2020


Environmental Research Letters


Siderius, C., Conway, D., Yassine, M., Murken, L., Lostis, P.-L., & Dalin, C. (2020). Multi-scale analysis of the water-energy-food nexus in the Gulf region. Environmental Research Letters, 15(9), 094024. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab8a86


Multi-scale analysis of the water-energy-food nexus in the Gulf region

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