The water-energy-food nexus: Is the increasing attention warranted, from either a research or policy perspective?
This article in Environmental Science & Policy criticizes the water-energy-food nexus as a new or innovative concept and argues enhancing research integration and achieving policy coherence is not always optimal. In recent years, the notion of a nexus involving water, energy, and food has been gaining attention in the scholarly literature and popular press, partly due to the increasing interest among researchers and public officials in determining the investments and policies needed to achieve and sustain water, energy, and food security. While the notion of such a nexus is compelling to some observers, interactions involving water, energy, and food have been known and studied for many years by scientists and policy analysts. The conceptual basis for including water, energy, and food in the “nexus,” to the exclusion of other resources and inputs is not evident. In many cases, the information excluded from studies claiming to implement a nexus approach might be of greater importance to science and policy than the information included in the analysis. This paper reviews earlier attempts to enhance integration and policy coherence, and to promote systems analysis. The challenges observed in implementing programs of integrated natural resources management and integrated water resources management, in particular, suggest that efforts to implement a water-energy-food nexus approach will not enhance the policy process in all settings. In sum, it is not clear that the increasing attention given to studies claiming to implement a nexus approach is warranted.