event 17 Dec 2020

Nexus Blog // Outcomes of the webinar 'Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus in the GCC and EU regions - Challenges and Opportunities'

The need for Water-Energy-Food Nexus solutions in the Gulf region is clear: countries are water scarce, energy intensive, food deficient and vulnerable to climate change, all of which are multiplied by increasing industrialisation and population growth. To begin to tackle these challenges, the GCC-EU Clean Energy Network hosted a webinar on December 8th to highlights practical Nexus solutions, collaboration areas with Europe and methods to expand acceptance and institutionalisation of the WEF Nexus in the Gulf.

Oman irrigation

Falaj irrigation system, along Wadi Dayqah, Massarah, Oman

Article by Charlotte Mueller for the Global Nexus Secretariat

On December 8th the GCC-EU Clean Energy Network hosted an informative webinar titled “The Water-Energy- Food (WEF) Nexus in the GCC and EU regions; Challenges and Opportunities.” Speakers emphasised the importance of WEF resources in the Gulf region and the need for practical solutions: Gulf countries are water scarce, energy intensive, food deficient and vulnerable to climate change. The region also has fast-growing populations, increasing industrialisation and changing associated consumption patterns, decreasing groundwater and requires seawater desalination for drinking water. Together these factors increase the need for sectoral planning in water, energy and food resource securities. Speakers thus acknowledged that WEF sectors can no longer be managed in isolation and that Nexus approaches can have tangible benefits for the region, such as helping the GCC move to a green and circular economy and achieving NDCs.

Webinar Aims

  1. Build wider common understanding and awareness of WEF Nexus;
  2. Exchange information on GCC and EU initiatives about lessons learnt;
  3. Discuss strengthening of EU-GCC collaboration in WEF Nexus implementation, capacity building, R&D and knowledge management;
  4. Discuss the recommendations of the Saudi Arabia G20 Presidency policy brief the WEF Nexus approach: an imperative enabler for sustainable development in the MENA region.


Professor Waleed Khalil Al- Zubari (Arabian Gulf University, Bahrain) emphasised academia as a key area of knowledge creation and capacity building for the region. The AGU focuses on increasing awareness of Nexus at the level of decisionmakers and defining crucial Nexus interlinkages through quantification and modelling. Noted vulnerabilities in the Gulf include energy-intensive water production through thermal desalination and overexploited groundwater resources. A notable recommendation included enhancing the science-policy interface to bridge the WEF Nexus knowledge gap between academics and decisionmakers.

Dr. Faysal Buradi, Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, presented ‘the Mediterranean Nexus: Regional assessment of WEFE interdependencies’ to outline their recent work with UfM (Union for Mediterranean) and GWP-MED on the Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystem Nexus:

  1. Set of modelling tools for Mediterranean: database on all pressures coming into the sea
  2. Study on how local Nexus implementation could achieve SDGs
  3. Impact of increasing irrigation or food production on WEFE sectors.

These three studies will be available in an interactive WEFE Mediterranean ATLAS available Spring 2021. The ATLAS targets scientists, policymakers and the public through dynamic storytelling. A smartphone can be used to scan graphics and open corresponding videos and 3D scientific maps.

Going Green on Desalination by Professor Mushtaque Ahmed (Sultan Qaboos University)

The decreasing cost and energy requirements of desalination requires green technology and water management responses to meet increasing interest in desalination in the Gulf region. These could include water price increases to manage demand, brine management, water re-use and the expansion of small-scale green agricultural desalination. Reducing the dependence on desalination could also include trade-offs with the agricultural sector’s groundwater use. Though government commitments are visible in most countries, environmental issues are not prioritised in desalination. This is clear in the continued focus on large plants with uninterrupted energy supply and lack of concrete policies or subsidies for green desalination.

Internet of Things (IoT) for WEF sustainability by Dr Nikos Dimitriou (Institute of Informatics and Telecommunications National Center for Scientific Research "Demokritos")

Sustainable WEF usage requires smart water and food management for collecting and communicating data. IoT networks can monitor water demand and consumption throughout the different resource chains with sensors (e.g. in sea water and electric pumps, solar desalination, smart irrigation) while IoT tags on food products can monitor food expiration. Expansion of these smart technology tools in the GCC can help optimise WEF resource management, while the use of this data can be exploited at the governance level to promote WEF Nexus policies. Looking towards Europe for lessons, such as the European Green Deal’s prioritisation of smart technology integration into key sectors, could reap benefits in the Gulf.

Designing sustainable greenhouses for the Gulf Region by Omar Saif (Regional Advisor on Water-Energy-Food Nexus (Gulf Region), Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)

Mr. Saif presented a study on optimal sustainable greenhouses in the region, supported by the Dutch government in partnership with TNO innovation for life and Wageningen University. The study utilised technologies from the Netherlands for year-round food production to tackle the Gulf region’s seasonal and food variety constraints. The goal was to explore which technology and types of greenhouse would lead to more crop per drop and crop per watt. Scenario modelling results showed that low technology greenhouses could see significant yield increases by making simple tweaks to heating and irrigation systems. Recommended scenarios were presented based on optimising annual yields in kg/m3, fuel, water and power consumption and carbon dioxide.

Discussion and Future Work

After a lively discussion, participants closed with thoughts on the wide range of opportunities available in the Gulf region and suggestions for next steps. These include turning brine (an output of desalination) into an industry or developing large scale CO2 pipelines to feed “greenhouse valleys”. Interest in Europe’s success in farmer sectoral cross-compliance (farmers must manage water quantity, quality and environment to receive subsidies from the European Commission), greenhouse technology and use of smart meters was also a theme, as was expanding education about the WEF Nexus and cross-sectoral planning at the university level. Ideas to facilitate government institutionalisation included championing the role of the private sector with clear displays of innovative technology and their economic benefits, such as the potential of brine for mineral extraction, and advocating for a soft ministerial structure where separate ministries have joint coordination committees to integrate planning. An interest in building capacity with Europe, potentially through trainings, was also expressed.

The EU-GCC Clean Energy Network will organise trainings and workshops next year: become a Network registered member (no cost) to access their training platform and stay up to date on their activities.

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