In the session Water-Food-Energy Nexus in Large Infrastructures, the Sao Francisco River in Brazil was showcased. There an innovative production system was show which was coupled with the hydraulic infrastructure. Appropriate irrigation planning and the reuse of treated wastewater were highlighted in the session Water for Food Security and Rural Development in the Americas – Current Issues and Opportunities.
The world’s biggest water-related event – the World Water Forum (WWF) - took place for the 8th time in Brasília, Brazil on 18-23 March 2018. The WWF’s mission is to promote awareness, build political commitment and trigger action on critical water issues at all levels, to facilitate the efficient water conservation, protection, development, planning, management, and use of water in all its dimensions on an environmentally sustainable basis for the benefit of all life on earth. With Brazil hosting the WWF 8, it was the first time the event was held in the Southern Hemisphere. South American countries expected the WWF8 to be a chance for promoting their voice in the international discourse on sustainable water management.
In his inauguration speech, the Brazilian President Michel Temer highlighted the importance of the Forum as a place for exchanging experiences and mutual learning, which is essential for the sustainable development of all countries facing severe water-related challenges. According to this year´s overarching theme of “Sharing water”, representatives of the High Level Panel (ministers) stressed the importance of water – not only for access to water and sanitation, but also for other sectors, especially agriculture and thus food security, and energy supply. The theme meant having a head start for the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus, representing a fundamental shift from pure sectoral approaches towards a cross-sectoral, integrated and coherent perspective.
But how was the WEF-Nexus reflected and discussed from a Latin American perspective at the WWF8?
The WEF-Nexus featured prominently in a number of workshops and panel discussions. Moreover, it was implicitly present in most of the discussions in form of interlinkages, inter-sectoral coordination, multipurpose infrastructure and other Nexus key elements throughout the Forum. In the context of Latin America, with its large share of hydropower, the Nexus was presented as an opportunity for holistically planning and managing large water infrastructure, which also involves complex institutional, legal and technological arrangements. The Water Transfer Project at the Sao Francisco River in Brazil was showcased for identifying an economically viable equilibrium by coupling an innovative energy production system with hydraulic infrastructure, thus reducing costs and allowing agriculture to access water (Session: Water-Food-Energy Nexus in Large Infrastructures, coordinated by the Ministry of National Integration of Brazil). The relation between food and water security was addressed as well. Appropriate irrigation planning and the reuse of treated wastewater were highlighted as specific Nexus examples (Session: Water for Food Security and Rural Development in the Americas – Current Issues and Opportunities, coordinated by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture).
These sessions – as well as many of the other interesting sessions during the Forum – clearly demonstrated the importance of the Nexus approach for Latin America. In order to live up to the Forum’s motto “Sharing Water”, the linkages between the different sectors that rely on water resources and that impact on and interrelate with water resources, need to be considered in an integrated and holistic manner in order to ensure improved livelihoods while preserving ecosystems and the environment. Experiences from Latin America clearly highlight this – no matter whether they relate to the development of large-scale hydropower projects which can generate additional benefits to people if other uses are taken into consideration under a multi-purpose perspective or to the role of important ecosystems, such as the Amazon, in providing services for people’s water, food and energy security. Only when water, energy, food and ecosystems are addressed on the basis of the Nexus-approach, the sharing of water will lead to benefits for people, economies and societies.