The nexus between water, energy, and food today is fragile—made all the more so by climate change, catastrophic weather events, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The devastation of Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria provided a good example of recovery of the WEF Nexus as all three systems were destroyed and recovery efforts focused on urban areas. The disaster illustrated the need to decentralize water, energy and food supplies to increase the island’s resilience.
“…this is the first time health and economy have been directly linked without consideration of the WEF nexus.”Thomas L. Crisman and Zachary S. Winters
The pandemic currently overtaking the planet provides another glimpse into responses to large-scale disaster that has the potential to significantly impact food water and energy systems. The bulk of the early COVID19 response focused on cities rather than rural areas. This makes sense given the higher risks associated with higher population densities. Unfortunately, as the virus makes its way into rural populations, the impact to WEF systems is becoming more prominent as food processing facilities are forced to reduce production or close altogether due to an infected workforce.
The WEF Nexus provides a useful framework for examining how crises can throw the balance of these systems out of alignment, causing health and economic distress; however, leaders of some regions are advocating a shift away from societal protection as economic hardship grows. According to authors, “…this is the first time health and economy have been directly linked without consideration of the WEF nexus.”