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Research Papers, Publications and Books  |  , Resource  |  , DNC2017 Position Papers  |  18 May 2017

DNC2017 // Bridging the Water and Food Gap: The Role of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus

By Rabi H. Mohtar, Amjad T. Assi and Bassel T. Daher. This paper introduces a WEF Nexus approach based on a theory of holistic systems. It is a hierarchal approach that begins with localizing the food security issue by taking into account issues of policy, quantification and accounting for the water, land, and food issues from the perspectives of science, governance, finance, and local capacity building.

Food and water security are among the top global risks facing the future of our planet and our current way of life. Four out of the top 10 global risks highlighted in the 2014 World Economic Forum report "The 2014 Global Risks Report" are directly related to water and food security. Managing global risks effectively, requires that we make the effort to understand, measure and foresee the evolution of the interdependencies between risks. Essentially, the report reaffirms previous calls for nexus thinking: looking not only at components in isolation, but at the broader system, focusing our efforts into a new reality of managing complexity.

In this paper we emphasize these findings. We start by introducing the global resources challenges, risks and shifts in what society defines as global securities. We then explore the grand challenges surrounding resources scarcity and the need for a holistic platform to quantify these interlinkages and tradeoff analyses. In order to implement such a holistic platform, we introduce the water – energy – food nexus [WEF Nexus] as a resource integration platform that can help with scenarios analysis. Moreover, we introduce various nexus hotspot applications around the world to highlight the use of such a holistic nexus platform to address the securities of water, energy, and food resources. One of the major hotspots highlighted is the water-food nexus challenge and sustainable agricultural intensification, mainly as relates to dryland. These agricultural systems are currently dominated by the land centric concept of producing more food from the same land without analytically defining sustainable production systems that take the resource nexus into consideration. We argue that sustainable agricultural intensification should also be based on the sustainable use of the pillars of the natural system: energy, soil, water, and atmosphere, which are key to facing the water and food crisis. However, managing these resources requires a quantifiable framework for characterization and modeling the hydro-functioning of the soil-plant-atmosphere system. The lack of such a framework prevents the scientific community from quantifying, managing and thus, sustainably utilizing other water resources, mainly green water and non-conventional waters, such as greywater, wastewater, and produced water.

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May 2017

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The Dresden Nexus Conference 2017. The Dresden Nexus Conference is a platform developed to advance the sustainable development agenda by bringing actors together who apply a Nexus Approach to resource management. Side by side, researchers and implementers (policy- and decision makers) from universities, national and international organizations, UN entities, ministries and governmental agencies, as well as individual researchers and stakeholders from the private sector and civil society discuss current research and initiatives applying the Nexus Approach and the benefits for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

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