The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: Relevant Reports, Articles and Research

The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: Relevant Reports, Articles and Research

This list of reports, articles and research that illustrates and documents the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus. While many of them call out the WEF Nexus specifically, some of them might not have as obvious a connection, so we’ve made those connections for you.

GRACE Nexus Reports

Know the Nexus (The Nexus Report)
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“Know the Nexus” explains the clear consequences for public health, the economy and the environment when the food, water and energy nexus becomes unbalanced. It describes how and where these systems intersect, how they rely upon each other to function and how they can have a significant impact on each other. It also describes how our national policies and management (or lack thereof) on topics such as fracking and food and energy subsidies affect food, water and energy systems in both positive and negative ways. We need policies that address the complexity of the nexus at all levels of government. “Know the Nexus” urges individuals, businesses and governments to take a nexus approach.

Meet the Nexus (The Nexus Guide)
Download Meet the Nexus

The Nexus Guide shows how everyday food, water and energy decisions have a profound effect on each other and suggests nine simple, daily choices to make in order to use food, water and energy more sustainably. The Nexus concept is broken down into easy-to-digest parts by revealing the hidden connections between food, water and energy in the grocery store, at home and in the kitchen. It also highlights how some local governments and small businesses are making good nexus decisions that protect the environment and keep costs down.

The Food-Water-Energy Nexus

  • Nature Sustainability: Nexus Approaches to Global Sustainable Development
    This paper proposes a systematic procedure to explicitly quantify the contributions of nexus approaches to progress toward meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and provides perspectives on future directions.
  • AGU Publications: The Global Food‐Energy‐Water Nexus
    This paper underscores the need for understanding synergies, conflicts and tradeoffs associated with decisions, and suggests that moving towards a circular economy might help resolve problems between the systems.
  • Texas A&M University: Water-Energy-Food Nexus Initiative
    This effort comprises Texas A&M University scientists committed to finding solutions to the nexus grand challenges through multidisciplinary teams that share their skills, knowledge and scientific abilities to produce analytics, grounded in state-of-the-art science and a platform to facilitate inclusive stakeholder dialogues at local, regional and global levels.
  • The International Institute for Sustainable Development: The Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus: Towards a Practical Planning and Decision-support Framework for Landscape Investment and Risk Management
    This discussion provides a solid overview of the various nexus conceptual frameworks and offers ISSD’s vision of how to operationalize – or put into effect – a balanced nexus approach to sustainable development.
  • The Natural Resources Defense Council: Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill
    This issue paper reveals how Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion worth of food each year, along with 25 percent of all freshwater and huge amounts of unnecessary chemicals, energy, and land.
  • Stockholm Environment Institute: Understanding the Nexus
    This background paper for the Bonn2011Conference on the Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus explains the nexus and presents initial evidence for how a nexus approach can enhance water, energy and food security.
  • University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and the Institute for Global Environmental Leadership workshop: Nexus of Food, Water and Energy
    This event produced a follow-up report that provides an overview of what corporate leaders view as best models and tools needed for future research, potential policy impact and future potential business opportunities.
  • United States Geological Survey Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2015
    This report is the best source for estimates of US water use by power plants, irrigation, livestock, public water supplies and other categories.
  • The World Economic Forum: Water Security: The Water-Food-Energy-Climate Security Nexus
    This report documents how water is linked to economic growth across a number of issues and makes clear the water security challenges to be faced if a “business as usual” approach to water management is maintained.
  • Science Direct: Sustainable Development and the Water–Energy–Food Nexus: A Perspective on Livelihoods
    This research proposes an integrated nexus-livelihoods framework and combines food, water and energy nexus and sustainable livelihoods approaches.
  • IOP Science: The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: A Systematic Review of Methods for Nexus Assessment
    This paper reviews methods to provide a knowledge base of existing approaches and promote further development of analytical methods that align with nexus thinking.
  • Forbes: The Power Of Food, Water And Energy ‘Nexus Thinking’
    This article illustrates the need to adopt a comprehensive ecosystem view of sustainable growth and development by reviewing how the nexus plays out in Kern County, California.
  • Waginengen University and Research: Water-Food-Energy Nexus
    This study attempts to answer whether the nexus concept is sufficiently developed to support the water-related policy of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and what essential elements of water, food security and energy are necessary to optimize the nexus system.
  • CEO Water Mandate: Virtual Water: Its Implications on Agriculture and Trade (2018)
    This paper considers questions of gaps in knowledge, why sustainability matters, and the policy implications of virtual water trade as compiled from a workshop supported by the OECD Co-operative Research Programme, held at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in September 2016.

The Energy-Water Nexus

  • E. Grubert and K. Sanders, Environmental Science & Technology: Water Use in the United States Energy System: A National Assessment and Unit Process Inventory of Water Consumption and Withdrawals
    This study presents detailed estimates for US-based water consumption and withdrawals for the US energy system in 2014.
  • The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy: Roadmap to Energy in the Water and Wastewater Industry
    This report compiles expert opinions on opportunities for energy efficiency in municipal water and wastewater.
  • Circle of Blue: Choke Point US
    This series explores how energy demand is confronting water scarcity.
  • Stanford University Water in the West program: Water-Energy Nexus: A Literature Review
    This review provides readers with an overview and analysis of the policy, scientific and technical research on the connections between water and energy.
  • Union of Concerned Scientists: Energy and Water in a Warming World Initiative
    This series of reports helps decision-makers understand what a low-carbon, water-smart electricity future looks like and how to make decisions today that move the country down that path.
  • Congressional Research Service: Energy-Water Nexus The Water Sector’s Energy Use
    This report provides background on energy for facilities that treat and deliver water to end users
    and also dispose of and discharge wastewater.
  • US Department of Energy: The Water-Energy Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities
    This report frames an integrated challenge and opportunity space around the water-energy nexus for the Department and its partners, laying the foundation for future efforts.
  • US Department of Energy Sandia National Laboratories: Energy Demands on Water Resources Report to Congress on the Interdependency of Energy and Water
    This report reviews the “threats to national energy production resulting from limited water supplies.”
  • Environmental Science Water Research & Technology: The Consumptive Water Footprint of Electricity and Heat: a Global Assessment
    This study assesses the consumptive water footprint of electricity and heat generation per world region in the three main stages of the production chain: fuel supply, construction and operation.
  • E. Habib, H. Eldardiry and V. Tidwell, Department of Civil Engineering and Institute for Coastal and Water Research, University of Louisiana at Lafayette; and Vincent Tidwell, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM: HydroViz: Energy-Water Nexus
    This module helps students learn about the energy-water nexus focusing on their ability to quantitatively examine water availability in the US and elucidate key drivers governing electricity water demand such as population growth, cooling technology, fuel portfolio, and electricity trade. 
  • World Bank: Thirsty Energy: Securing Energy in a Water-Constrained World 
    This report with case studies was created to help countries integrate water constraints into the energy sector and better address water and energy challenges.
  • Md Abu Bakar Siddik, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, Arman Shehabi, Energy Technologies Area, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, Landon Marston, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA: The Environmental Footprint of Data Centers in the United States
    This study quantifies the energy and water use implications behind data creation and storage in the United States and lays out a path the data center industry can take to decrease both the water footprint and carbon emissions of our increasing digital footprint.

The Food-Energy Nexus

  • The Congressional Research Service: Energy Use in Agriculture: Background and Issues
    This report provides baseline information on energy use by the US agricultural sector and touches upon emerging issues and related legislation.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Energy Use in Organic Food Systems
    This report analyzed energy use in organic agriculture, in comparison with conventional agriculture, and found that organic agriculture uses less fossil fuel-based inputs and has a smaller carbon footprint than standard agricultural practices.
  • The Webber Group: The Nexus of Food, Waste and Energy
    This analysis of how food, waste and energy are connected looks at the production, transportation and storage of food and the energy embedded in food waste, as well as the energy potential of waste streams.
  • Union of Concerned Scientists: Renewable Energy and Agriculture: A Natural Fit
    These four fact sheets on renewable energy and agriculture provide information on renewable energy technologies and the rural economic development opportunities they could create.

The Food-Water Nexus

  • Circle of Blue: Water & Food
    This collection of stories from Circle of Blue illustrates how the connections between food and water are growing stronger as the population surges toward nine billion people.
  • The Water Footprint Network: The Water Footprint of Food
    This issue page describes how the international trade in agricultural commodities also constitutes a trade with water in virtual form.