The Water-Food-Energy Nexus (WFEN) is a model of action, a concept that can be applied in connecting humans to our natural environment. In bringing these three imperative systems together, we can innovate and create sound practices in managing our water, food and energy in a time where scarcity and variability occur. The WFEN implements research driven policy, managing our system via resource allocation, interconnecting the demands placed by our growing population.
In a study published by Global Environmental Change, Volume 45, page 165-173 (Weitz et al., 2017) a coherent policy driven approach would enable the applicability of the nexus on a global scale. Weitz argues that in order for the nexus to be applied, less fragmentation in policy across the water, food and energy sector needs to take place. If, for example a solar thermal plant is being considered and requires the cooling of water, considering the impact on water use would be a nexus in Energy-Water.
Taking place in Latin America where increased biofuel production competes with food production and the availability of land and water, using the nexus approach has shown to minimise the effects of these trade offs
Published by the Global Canopy Programme (Bellfield, H. 2015). The strategic priorities applied in this case are as follows:
1. Coherent landscape planning
2. Strong water governance
3. Monitoring systems
4. Quantify trade-offs
5. Decoupling agriculture from deforestation
6. Payment for Ecosystem Services rather than subsidisation.
In an issue published by Resources “Assessment of the successes and failures of decentralized energy solutions and implications for the water-energy-food security nexus” (Dawit D.G. et al 2017), an example of a case study implemented in Chunfeng village in China shows promise and ingenuity. In this example, the case study describes the implementation of a household biogas digester in Chunfeng village in China.
A biogas digester is a tank where biogas is produced through anaerobic digestion, breaking down and decomposing organic matter, hence digester. The biogas is the end-product, a mixture of carbon dioxide and methane, to be used as fuel for cooking and electricity.
In this small rural village, the government aims to improve rural living standards and reduce pollution by introducing the household biogas digester, integrating the nexus scheme beautifully. The three-in-one approach uses a sanitary/toilet livestock house (pig sty), a biogas digester (with a stove kitchen) and an orchard (field). The animal waste is then used to produce biogas, utilized in turn as cooking fuel. The residual matter from the biogas is then used as fertilizer (slurry).
This example of using the nexus is one of many gaining momentum in achieving solutions to addressing climate change. Please visit https://www.water-energy-food.org/start/ for great case studies, relevant research and overall fantastic information for your reading pleasure.