event 03 Feb 2022

Research Article // Nature-based solutions addressing the water-energy-food nexus: Review of theoretical concepts and urban case studies

NBS can make the W-E-F nexus synergetic and circular if smartly embedded into urban systems. This is necessary for environmental, political (e.g., EU Green Deal) and social reasons, to ensure that we stay within the nine planetary boundaries. This study has highlighted that often the W-E-F nexus is included as a keyword in publications, but rarely mentioned or discussed in the work.

category Research Papers, Publications and Books tag Ecosystems tag Nexus methodology tag Governance (of the Nexus) tag Cities/urban Nexus
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An increasing world population is projected to increase water, energy and food requirements, three vital resources for humankind. Projected climate change impacts will aggravate water availability, as well as flood risks, especially in urban areas. Nature-based solutions (NBS) have been identified as key concepts to defuse the expected tensions within the Water-Energy-Food (W-E-F) Nexus due to their multiple benefits. In this paper, the authors outlined the theories and concepts, analyzed real-life case studies, and discussed the potential of NBS to address the future W-E-F Nexus. For this purpose, they performed a systematic literature review on the theories of NBS that address the W-E-F nexus, and they summarized 19 representative real-life case studies to identify the current knowledge gaps and challenges. The quantitative and qualitative data was used to differentiate and discuss the direct and indirect potential benefits of NBS to the W-E-F nexus. The study further expanded on the challenges for the implementation of NBS and highlighted the growing possibilities in the context of circularity and the implementation of NBS in urban planning. It was concluded that the potential impacts of NBS on the W-E-F Nexus have been identified, but the quantitative effects have not been analyzed in-depth. Moreover, indicators are mostly single-purpose and not multipurpose, as required to fully characterize the W-E-F Nexus and circularity holistically. Overall, there is a need to adopt systemic thinking and promote the multipurpose design of NBS.


January 2022


Journal of Cleaner Production


Carvalho, P. N., Finger, D. C., Masi, F., Cipolletta, G., Oral, H. V., Tóth, A., ... & Exposito, A. (2022). Nature-based solutions addressing the water-energy-food nexus: Review of theoretical concepts and urban case studies. Journal of Cleaner Production, 130652.


Download the full article here.

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