Blog: Understanding the relationship between water, energy and food security

21 February 2013 | News story

By Rebecca Welling. Recognition and understanding of the closely-bound interaction between water, energy and food production and use – the 'nexus' – is established in these sectors, but perhaps for many, ‘this nexus’ is still not entirely understood.

So the IUCN Global Water Programme decided to better communicate what this nexus on water-energy-food is all about through infographics. As IUCN recently launched the new Nexus Dialogue on Water Infrastructure, the nexus concept needs to be clearly understood. The Nexus project, developed in partnership with the International Water Association (IWA), will be compiling and sharing case studies and solutions to crucial questions such as “How does watershed management help hydropower”?, “What ways of operating dams sustain wetland fisheries”?, “What technologies make irrigation more water efficient?”. A new website was set up (www.waternexussolutions.org) and contributions are welcomed through this platform.

As a newly-appointed IUCN Water Project Officer, I’ve been involved in work under the Nexus Project: designing an infographic on the nexus to turn science into more accessible knowledge. Getting back to basics – asking questions and drawing diagrams – is where we started.

In essence, the nexus refers to the links that exist between water, energy, and food, how the functioning of one depends on the other. For example, hydropower needs a steady supply of water in order to generate energy. No water, no hydropower. Farmers need access to water for irrigation to grow their crops. No water, no food. And so on.

If we think about connecting the nexus in terms of a ‘metro map’, as the infographic illustrates, where water, energy and food are ‘metro stops’, we can begin to see that various ‘metro lines’ run back and forth between each of the ‘stops’. If there is a breakdown at one stop, the lines linking to others are affected, impacting the functioning of the system. This is the nexus – this interdependence of all three spheres.

Within the context of rapidly increasing population growth over the next two decades, and with it, the increased needs for water, food and energy, as well as climate change altering patterns of demand and use of water resources, now is the time to plan, address shortcomings and most importantly, collect solutions that will help secure water, food, and energy for future generations.

Answering these crucial nexus questions and finding solutions that will put the three securities in synch will help both ecosystems and sustainable development. With more water for nature through increased investment in natural water infrastructure, there will be less degradation of ecosystems and in turn more benefits for people from nature’s services.

Nexus solutions are out there, and creating a platform through the Nexus Dialogue Project to close this gap and share solutions for the water-energy-food nexus will help keep the ‘metro’ system running smoothly.

For further information, please contact rebecca.welling@iucn.org


This image shows the courtship behavior of Indian Bull frogs (Holobatrachus tigerinus). During the monsoon, the breeding males become bright yellow in color, while females remain dull. The prominent blue vocal sacs of male produce strong nasal mating call.