Water-land-energy nexus

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Water is essential to meet multiple demands such as consumption, sanitation, agriculture, and energy. It is estimated that 884 million people globally lack decent access to water. The World Commission on Water estimates that water use will increase by about 50 percent in the next 30 years and by then more than half the world population (approximately 5 billion people) will live in severe water stress.

Population growth, an expanding middle class with changing lifestyles and diets, and the urgent need to improve water, energy and food security for the poorest all place growing pressure on limited resources. Unless there are significant changes to the ways that we produce and consume, agricultural production will have to increase by about 70% by 2050 and about 50% more primary energy has to be made available by 2035. Such increases would have far-reaching implications for water and land resources.

Climate change is also likely to aggravate pressure on resources and so add to the vulnerability of people and ecosystems, particularly in water scarce and marginal regions. A nexus approach is needed to help climate mitigation measures (e.g. REDD+2 or CCS3) be more ‘water smart’, adaptation measures (e.g. irrigation) to be less energy intensive, and to avoid damaging consequences for food production and other vital ecosystem services.

The nexus approach means systemic thinking and a quest for integrated solutions to guide decision-making about resource use and development, to minimize externalities and ensure true sustainability. There is a growing recognition around the world that this is, indeed, the best approach, given the complex linkages and feedbacks involved. But successfully applying nexus thinking to specific locations and challenges is by no means a small task.

Side events

Essential reading

SEI Publication Understanding the Nexus
SEI Publication The nexus of water-energy-food
SEI Publication Valuing the Ocean: Preview Summary

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