Catalysing partnership through the energy-food-water nexus

Katharine Cross, Programme Manager of IWA

14 April, 2015

Recognising the complex linkages between water-energy-food is not new, but more and more attention is being focused on how to optimize and promote inter-sectoral collaboration from the ministerial level, to water companies, to local communities. Why is this?

Firstly, there is increasing competition for resources between sectors, combined with a growing population, changing climate and land use. Secondly, technical and policy solutions that just address the challenges in one sector can have minimal impact or even be detrimental, as disruption and change in one part of the system can destabilise another part.

For example, building an irrigation scheme to abstract water upstream can reduce the amount of water available for hydroelectric power generation; or clearing the forest for agriculture in the upper part of a catchment area can result in sedimentation of dams downstream, and poor water quality that affects fisheries and drinking water supply.

The water-energy-food nexus provides an opportunity to overcome sectoral “silos”, and to strive for interdisciplinary solutions when developing projects and initiatives that can have cross-sectoral benefits while being socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. Nonetheless, gaining continuous and stable momentum for cross-sectoral cooperation needs long-term commitment and adaptive and practical national, regional and global policies.

Through a number of sessions, side events and roundtables at the 7th World Water Forum, IWA with partners such as IUCN and GIZ, are taking the discussion forward on how to implement practical solutions that will secure water, energy and food. Momentum to achieve this stems from the Nexus Dialogue on Water Infrastructure Solutions, an initiative between the IWA and IUCN.

The Dialogue is compiling information and catalysing partnerships around water infrastructure and technology along with effective institutions, financing and incentives to ensure the effective provision of water for multiple uses.  One outcome of this is that the IWA with IUCN is developing a rapid assessment framework with the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa, developed to promote and encourage nexus-based investments across catchment areas.

This concept was one of the critical issues discussed during the nexus Ministerial Roundtable on the opening day of the 7th World water Forum in Gyeongju. Investments need to be considered not just from a water viewpoint, they need to incorporate the energy and/or food perspective in order to arrive at appropriate decisions that, not only improve the way we use our resources, but also provide incentives for mutual benefits across sectors.

For example, for water and wastewater utilities cost savings are a strong incentive to take action. Implementing technologies and processes which can improve energy efficiency during water abstraction, as well as reducing water loss during distribution, can result in significant energy savings and reduced energy costs for utilities, freeing financial resources to invest in other areas. The IWA is working on a project with GIZ, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation, to improve the carbon balance across utilities. The project focuses on parts of the nexus as addressing greenhouse gas reduction and energy efficiency produces benefits for water efficiency and recovers resources.

IWA's Water-Enery-Food Nexus Programme at the 7th World Water Forum

The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: Are we finally talking? - in partnership with FAO [Cross-cutting Session]

Date: 14th April 2015, 09:00-11:00
Venue: DEC_307 | DAEGU | EXCO | 3F Room 321

This session highlights the importance of water resources for development, and forces us to think of the impacts a decision in one sector can have not only on that sector, but on others. The session will focus on what concrete steps can be taken within sectors and across sectors to ensure that decision-making processes are better coordinated and more coherent. Policy principles will be reviewed and discussed to move towards action for sustainable water infrastructure operation, management and optimization in the Nexus.

Putting the water-energy nexus into practice: Economic and policy incentives, in partnership with UNECE

Date: 14th April 2015, 11:20-13:20
Venue: DEC_312 | DAEGU | EXCO | 3F Room 325 B, D

This session will explore how institutional arrangements and a process of collaboration can lead to solutions to share benefits across the water, energy and food sectors. Experiences and examples of reconciling different water uses from the local to trans-boundary level, and a roadmap for transforming dialogue into implementable solutions, will be shared as outputs.

From Assessment to Action: The Nexus in Development Priorities and Programmes

Date: 14th April 2015, 13:30-14:30
Venue: DEC_312 | DAEGU | EXCO | 3F Room 325 B, D

This session will present findings from initial nexus assessment work from across the globe, including from the energy sector, to better identify synergies for rapid development priorities. Discussions between development practitioners, donors and investors will both challenge the rhetoric on the nexus, and identify solutions currently in practice and those that can go to scale.

Learning from the Global Nexus Dialogue on Infrastructure Solutions

Date: 15th April 2015, 13:30-14:30
Venue: DEC_312 | DAEGU | EXCO | 3F Room 325 B, D

Through a series of regional workshops in Nairobi, Bogota, Bangkok, Istanbul, and Beijing, and discussions with over 500 stakeholders, the Dialogue has developed a series of Synthesis Papers. These Papers highlight the realities of the water-energy-food nexus and identify solutions to mobilise infrastructure for future water, energy and food security. This side event will launch the multi-stakeholder Synthesis Papers and invite debate between authors of the papers and the audience.

Read more blogs on IWA website.