The Nexus Dialogue

The Nexus Dialogue on Water Infrastructure Solutions is a call to action to those leading transformations in water infrastructure planning, financing and operation.

The Dialogue provides a forum for sharing experiences, lessons, tools and guidelines on how water infrastructure and technologies can address nexus challenges. It is designed to build a common understanding of innovative planning, management and operational approaches that provide shared benefits across sectors.

Innovative professionals in farming, energy-production, natural resource management, and engineering have the experience and hold practical knowledge to address the nexus challenge. Working across sectors, the Nexus Dialogue provides a unique opportunity to share these experiences and the solutions emerging around the world.


Infrastructure and the Water, Energy and Food Nexus

Water, energy and food security rely on water infrastructure. Recognition of the closely bound interaction between water, energy and food production and use – the nexus  has led to new demands for water infrastructure and technology solutions.

The vision is coordinated planning, development, optimization and operation of portfolios of water infrastructure for benefits across sectors, including combinations of man-made infrastructures and technologies with nature-based infrastructures.

Solutions will bridge divides and strengthen the resilience of economic growth.


The dimensions of the Nexus challenge

Agriculture uses 70% of the world’s water to irrigate only 20% of the world’s cropland, yet produces 40% of all food. The energy sector is responsible for withdrawing 8% of all the worlds’ water, and in some cases up to 40% as in the USA.  Food and energy production are inextricably linked to, and dependent on, the availability and access to water resources. With growing demand and shrinking availability of natural resources, more needs to be done to develop and mobilize unconventional ways to produce and deliver water to fields, powerplants, industries and cities. 


Infographic - Water Infrastructure Solutions

© IUCN WATER, Infographic design: Carolyne Daniel, Zoï Environment Network


Equally, moving, storing and cleaning water is an energy intensive process. Often the entry point into developing or expanding existing energy generation, irrigation, or even public water supply systems is through infrastructure.  

Infrastructure helps to unlock the value water resources bring to societies, but can also contribute to the degradation of natural ecosystems, impacting downstream production and people. Consequently, the nexus - the links and impacts among water resources, food production, and energy generation - creates the opportunity to work across sectors to ensure the best management and infrastructure principles are applied for a more water secure future.




Nexus Dialogue activities

  • Knowledge – Contributions have been collected on best practices, guidelines, tools and technologies relevant to the operation and optimisation of water infrastructure, including re-operation of dams, optimisation of water cascades, and integration of portfolios of built and natural infrastructure solutions.
  • Anchor workshops – A series of regional workshops – in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Central Asia – have brought together innovators and thought leaders from the water, energy and food sectors. 
  • International conference on nexus solutions – The Nexus Dialogue culminated in the 2014 International Conference on Water, Energy and Food featuring innovation and learning in water infrastructure and technology solutions for optimization across the nexus. 
  • Coalitions for action – The Nexus Dialogue process has actively moved existing policy concepts at the water-energy-food nexus into action programmes, investments and commitments through the participation of change leaders from across sectors building new coalitions and partnerships for follow-up initiatives and investments. 
  • Nexus reference group The Nexus Dialogue has been guided by a reference group who help reach out to networks across sectors so that the platform benefits from all available contributions. They have also provided strategic direction, experienced opinion, foresight and thought leadership to the Dialogue.

Nexus thinking: Ways forward

  • What type of water infrastructure and technology is being used to provide water for multiple uses including water supply, food production and energy generation?
  • How is water infrastructure being optimized to share benefits across sectors?
  • How are trade-offs negotiated?
  • How does this change operation of existing infrastructure and planning of new developments?
  • What elements (social, political, ecological, economic, technical, etc.) are needed for infrastructure to have improved functionality while sustaining water, energy and food security?
  • What have been obstacles to optimizing water infrastructure for multiple uses of water supply, food and energy, and how have these been navigated?