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Research Papers, Publications and Books

Governing the Water-Energy-Food Nexus // Solving a Common Pool Resource Challenge

By Kent E. Portney. The central question animating this paper is whether and to what extent decision making in water, energy, and food can be said to be siloed, and if they are, whether there are conceptual reasons from public policy and management theory to suggest that breaking down these silos will make any different in terms of weakening the nexus between water, energy, and food.

Emerging research from applied engineering and sciences has begun to develop fairly deep understandings of the connections between water, energy, and food/agriculture with an eye toward prescribing how to achieve greater efficiencies and to reduce the likelihood of resource depletion. Such research has documented the amounts of water used in producing energy and food; the amount energy needed to extract and transport water, and to grow, process, and transport food.

What is far less well understood is how these resources are “governed,” that is, how public policy and management decisions are made that affect these connections. Underlying the engineering and scientific research is an expectation that if the connections are better understood, policymakers will make better decisions that affect water, energy, and food -- decisions that will result specifically in more efficient use of water in producing food and energy.

The expectation is predicated on the idea that decision making in water, energy, and food are “siloed” or “stovepiped,” and that breaking down these silos will lead to policy and management decisions that achieve greater efficiencies.

The central question animating this paper is whether and to what extent decision making in water, energy, and food can be said to be siloed, and if they are, whether there are conceptual reasons from public policy and management theory to suggest that breaking down these silos will make any different in terms of weakening the nexus between water, energy, and food.

Preliminary results from a survey of water agencies and organizations suggests that there is very little interaction with agencies or organizations involved in energy and food decisions. To the extent that achieving greater nexus requires interactions, there is significant work to be done to re-think how public policy and management is organized and conducted.

This paper prepared for the Ostrom Workshop, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University, 13 November 2017.

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Indiana University website

Published

November 2017

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