The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: Sustainable Development

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Water-Energy Nexus".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2021) | Viewed by 32185

Special Issue Editor

School of Business Society and Engineering , Division of Sustainable Energy Systems, Mälardalen University, 722 20 Västerås, Sweden
Interests: water-food-energy nexus; water production; solar radiation assessment; artificial intelligence; renewable energy
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Water, food, and energy are extremely interlinked and are basic human needs as highlighted by the Sustainable Development Goals. Globally, food production is the largest user of water. At the same time, it consumes a significant percentage of the total global energy consumption. Water is required for the conversion of energy in most of the energy systems, and energy is required to extract, pump, transport, and treat water.

Global food production, energy consumption, and water withdrawals are projected to increase under the pressure of megatrends such as population growth, economic development, urbanisation, and cultural and technological changes. Moreover, climate change and weather phenomena such as drought are substantially threatening and exacerbating the already fragile water, food, and energy security in several regions of the globe. Future projections shows that food, energy, and water consumption will significantly increase by mid-century.

Understanding the complex interrelationships between water, food, and energy is of paramount importance for a sustainable development. The concept of a water-food-energy (WFE) nexus as a conceptual tool for achieving water, food, and energy security is relatively new. Since it has been introduced and promoted, several WFE nexus models have been developed. Nevertheless, the available WFE nexus tools show several limitations such as the lack of synergy between the nexus areas. Moreover, very few models are at the stage of implementing the WFE nexus approach. Tools and data can help to better understand the nexus interconnections and support integrated approaches and policy development.

The aim of this Special Issue is to create a platform to help scientists in sharing the latest development in water-food-energy nexus tools and policies. We particularly appreciate works on datasets and databases that support the WFE nexus approach. We invite original research articles and review papers in the following topics:

  • WFE nexus databases and datasets
  • WFE nexus tools for the agricultural, industrial, and energy sectors
  • WFE nexus in urban areas
  • WFE nexus policies
  • Case studies that include the three aspects of the nexus

Dr. Pietro Elia Campana
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • Water-food-energy nexus
  • Agriculture
  • Industry
  • Energy
  • Urban nexus
  • Urban farming
  • Database
  • Dataset
  • Modelling
  • Optimization
  • Policy

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

12 pages, 2665 KiB  
Article
Interactive Visualisation of Sustainability Indicators for Water, Energy and Food Innovations
Water 2021, 13(11), 1571; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13111571 - 01 Jun 2021
Viewed by 2707
Abstract
The Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus describes the synergies and trade-offs between water, energy and food. Despite the significant attention that the WEF nexus has received in recent years, challenges remain, primarily related to gaps in integrated data, information and knowledge related to the most [...] Read more.
The Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus describes the synergies and trade-offs between water, energy and food. Despite the significant attention that the WEF nexus has received in recent years, challenges remain, primarily related to gaps in integrated data, information and knowledge related to the most critical inter-linkages and their dynamics. These WEF nexus complexities and uncertainty make decision-making and future forecasting extremely difficult. Policy makers and other stakeholders are currently faced with the task of understanding longer term environmental impacts and tJhe benefits and limitations of innovations that could be potentially beneficial, such as Anaerobic Digestion as a waste solution or insect protein production. This paper describes an approach to support decision making for local-level innovations within the WEF nexus by creating a set of sustainability indicators and an accompanying interactive visualisation. The indicators were derived from stakeholder consultation processes and workshops, and they were selected to include a much broader assessment than just financial aspects when considering the viability of such innovations. By taking this bottom-up approach and placing stakeholders at the heart of the project, we produced a visualisation tool to support sustainable decision making when considering the implementation of WEF innovations. Considering other, often overlooked factors and giving greater priority to these deepens knowledge and the recognition of influential issues that in conventional processes may be overlooked. This visualisation tool is designed to support decision makers to engage in a exploration of the different interlinkages, and to be the basis of stakeholder dialogue around sustainability. The visualisation tool developed was designed to be easily modifiable in order to be updated with new insights and to include other future innovations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: Sustainable Development)
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20 pages, 5313 KiB  
Article
An Attempt to Utilize a Regional Dew Formation Model in Kenya
Water 2021, 13(9), 1261; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13091261 - 30 Apr 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2357
Abstract
Model evaluation against experimental data is an important step towards accurate model predictions and simulations. Here, we evaluated an energy-balance model to predict dew formation occurrence and estimate its amount for East-African arid-climate conditions against 13 months of experimental dew harvesting data in [...] Read more.
Model evaluation against experimental data is an important step towards accurate model predictions and simulations. Here, we evaluated an energy-balance model to predict dew formation occurrence and estimate its amount for East-African arid-climate conditions against 13 months of experimental dew harvesting data in Maktau, Kenya. The model was capable of predicting the dew formation occurrence effectively. However, it overestimated the harvestable dew amount by about a ratio of 1.7. As such, a factor of 0.6 was applied for a long-term period (1979–2018) to investigate the spatial and temporal variation of the dew formation in Kenya. The annual average of dew occurrence in Kenya was ~130 days with dew yield > 0.1 L/m2/day. The dew formation showed a seasonal cycle with the maximum yield in winter and minimum in summer. Three major dew formation zones were identified after cluster analysis: arid and semi-arid regions; mountain regions; and coastal regions. The average daily and yearly maximum dew yield were 0.05 and 18; 0.9 and 25; and 0.15 and 40 L/m2/day; respectively. A precise prediction of dew occurrence and dew yield is very challenging due to inherent limitations in numerical models and meteorological input parameters. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: Sustainable Development)
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19 pages, 2457 KiB  
Article
Evaluating the Collaborative Security of Water–Energy–Food in China on the Basis of Symbiotic System Theory
Water 2021, 13(8), 1112; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13081112 - 17 Apr 2021
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2454
Abstract
Water, energy, and food are essential resources for humanity. The growing shortages of these resources and serious deterioration of river environments are having a big impact on the sustainable development of the economy and society in China. Water, energy, and food support human [...] Read more.
Water, energy, and food are essential resources for humanity. The growing shortages of these resources and serious deterioration of river environments are having a big impact on the sustainable development of the economy and society in China. Water, energy, and food support human life and yet coexist in different ways, and therefore it is critical to find a way for all three key elements to be secured in order to support high standards of sustainable development in China. We used the criteria of stability, coordination, and sustainability of symbiotic systems to select 33 indexes that were then used to establish an index system. The weight of index was determined by using the entropy weight method combined with Analytic Hierarchy Process. The fuzzy comprehensive evaluation method was used to calculate the collaborative security index, which was the basis of our evaluation of the collaborative water–energy–food security of China in time and space. The results show that North China and Northwest China are at high water–food–energy security risk, while East, Central, and South China are at moderate risk. With the exception of Southwest China and South China, risk in most parts of the country has risen over the past decades, while it has fallen in Shandong, Henan, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: Sustainable Development)
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20 pages, 7299 KiB  
Article
Nexus Thinking at River Basin Scale: Food, Water and Welfare
Water 2021, 13(7), 1000; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13071000 - 05 Apr 2021
Viewed by 3404
Abstract
Water resources face an unparalleled confluence of pressures, with agriculture and urban growth as the most relevant human-related stressors. In this context, methodologies using a Nexus framework seem to be suitable to address these challenges. However, the urban sector has been commonly ignored [...] Read more.
Water resources face an unparalleled confluence of pressures, with agriculture and urban growth as the most relevant human-related stressors. In this context, methodologies using a Nexus framework seem to be suitable to address these challenges. However, the urban sector has been commonly ignored in the Nexus literature. We propose a Nexus framework approach, considering the economic dimensions of the interdependencies and interconnections among agriculture (food production) and the urban sector as water users within a common basin. Then, we assess the responses of both sectors to climatic and demographic stressors. In this setting, the urban sector is represented through an economic water demand at the household level, from which economic welfare is derived. Our results show that the Nexus components here considered (food, water, and welfare) will be negatively affected under the simulated scenarios. However, when these components are decomposed to their particular elements, we found that the less water-intensive sector—the urban sector—will be better off since food production will leave significant amounts of water available. Moreover, when addressing uncertainty related to climate-induced shocks, we could identify the basin resilience threshold. Our approach shows the compatibilities and divergences between food production and the urban sector under the Nexus framework. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: Sustainable Development)
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22 pages, 3422 KiB  
Article
Construction of Critical Periods for Water Resources Management and Their Application in the FEW Nexus
Water 2021, 13(5), 718; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13050718 - 06 Mar 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 3078
Abstract
Amidst the growing population, urbanization, globalization, and economic growth, along with the impacts of climate change, decision-makers, stakeholders, and researchers need tools for better assessment and communication of the highly interconnected food–energy–water (FEW) nexus. This study aimed to identify critical periods for water [...] Read more.
Amidst the growing population, urbanization, globalization, and economic growth, along with the impacts of climate change, decision-makers, stakeholders, and researchers need tools for better assessment and communication of the highly interconnected food–energy–water (FEW) nexus. This study aimed to identify critical periods for water resources management for robust decision-making for water resources management at the nexus. Using a 4610 ha agricultural watershed as a pilot site, historical data (2006–2012), scientific literature values, and SWAT model simulations were utilized to map out critical periods throughout the growing season of corn and soybeans. The results indicate that soil water deficits are primarily seen in June and July, with average deficits and surpluses ranging from −134.7 to +145.3 mm during the study period. Corresponding water quality impacts include average monthly surface nitrate-N, subsurface nitrate-N, and soluble phosphorus losses of up to 0.026, 0.26, and 0.0013 kg/ha, respectively, over the growing season. Estimated fuel requirements for the agricultural practices ranged from 24.7 to 170.3 L/ha, while estimated carbon emissions ranged from 0.3 to 2.7 kg CO2/L. A composite look at all the FEW nexus elements showed that critical periods for water management in the study watershed occurred in the early and late season—primarily related to water quality—and mid-season, related to water quantity. This suggests the need to adapt agricultural and other management practices across the growing season in line with the respective water management needs. The FEW nexus assessment methodologies developed in this study provide a framework in which spatial, temporal, and literature data can be implemented for improved water resources management in other areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: Sustainable Development)
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20 pages, 2986 KiB  
Article
Evaluation and Scenario Prediction of the Water-Energy-Food System Security in the Yangtze River Economic Belt Based on the RF-Haken Model
Water 2021, 13(5), 695; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13050695 - 04 Mar 2021
Cited by 16 | Viewed by 2399
Abstract
As an important agricultural production area in China, the Yangtze River Economic Belt has a large amount of water resources and rich types of energy. Water and energy resources are the supporting basis of food production, and the production and use of energy [...] Read more.
As an important agricultural production area in China, the Yangtze River Economic Belt has a large amount of water resources and rich types of energy. Water and energy resources are the supporting basis of food production, and the production and use of energy also need to consume a large amount of water resources. The three affect each other and are interdependent. Paying attention to the synergistic security of water-energy-food system in the Yangtze River Economic Belt is important for regional economic development. This paper uses the pressure-state-response (PSR) model and selects 27 indicators to build an evaluation index system of the regional water-energy-food system. We use the random forest model to evaluate the security level of the Yangtze River Economic Belt from 2008 to 2017, and the Haken model is employed to identify the driving factors that dominate the synergistic evolution of the system. Then we take the identified factors as the key control variables under each scenario and launch a scenario simulation of some provinces in the Yangtze River Economic Belt in 2025. The results show that due to the improvement of water and energy utilization efficiency and the advancement of agricultural production technology, the level of water-energy-food security in the Yangtze River Economic Belt improved significantly from 2008 to 2017. Each province performs differently in different subsystems, with water resources security being better in the upper reaches and Zhejiang and Shanghai in the lower reaches, and food security being better in the middle and lower reaches. The level of energy security is high in Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou in the upper reaches and Shanghai and Anhui in the lower reaches. According to the results of scenario prediction for Jiangsu Province and Hubei Province in 2025, implementing moderate management in accordance with current management objectives can increase the overall security of the system to level 4. The two provinces should focus on controlling water resources and energy consumption and improving the utilization efficiency of water and energy in agricultural production. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: Sustainable Development)
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27 pages, 1021 KiB  
Article
A Robust Neutrosophic Modeling and Optimization Approach for Integrated Energy-Food-Water Security Nexus Management under Uncertainty
Water 2021, 13(2), 121; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13020121 - 07 Jan 2021
Cited by 15 | Viewed by 2624
Abstract
Natural resources are a boon for human beings, and their conservation for future uses is indispensable. Most importantly, energy-food-water security (EFWS) nexus management is the utmost need of our time. An effective managerial policy for the current distribution and conservation to meet future [...] Read more.
Natural resources are a boon for human beings, and their conservation for future uses is indispensable. Most importantly, energy-food-water security (EFWS) nexus management is the utmost need of our time. An effective managerial policy for the current distribution and conservation to meet future demand is necessary and challenging. Thus, this paper investigates an interconnected and dynamic EFWS nexus optimization model by considering the socio-economic and environmental objectives with the optimal energy supply, electricity conversion, food production, water resources allocation, and CO2 emissions control in the multi-period time horizons. Due to real-life complexity, various parameters are taken as intuitionistic fuzzy numbers. A novel method called interactive neutrosophic programming approach (INPA) is suggested to solve the EFWS nexus model. To verify and validate the proposed EFWS model, a synthetic computational study is performed. The obtained solution results are compared with other optimization approaches, and the outcomes are also evaluated with significant practical implications. The study reveals that the food production processes require more water resources than electricity production, although recycled water has not been used for food production purposes. The use of a coal-fired plant is not a prominent electricity conversion source. However, natural gas power plants’ service is also optimally executed with a marginal rate of production. Finally, conclusions and future research are addressed. This current study emphasizes how the proposed EFWS nexus model would be reliable and beneficial in real-world applications and help policy-makers identify, modify, and implement the optimal EFWS nexus policy and strategies for the future conservation of these resources. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: Sustainable Development)
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23 pages, 3227 KiB  
Article
Technical Efficiency of China’s Agriculture and Output Elasticity of Factors Based on Water Resources Utilization
Water 2020, 12(10), 2691; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12102691 - 26 Sep 2020
Cited by 15 | Viewed by 3066
Abstract
A stochastic frontier approach (SFA) model of translog production function was constructed to analyze the growth effect of agricultural production factors on grain production in China. Under the condition of unchanged cultivated land, the agricultural labor, capital, and water were regarded as input [...] Read more.
A stochastic frontier approach (SFA) model of translog production function was constructed to analyze the growth effect of agricultural production factors on grain production in China. Under the condition of unchanged cultivated land, the agricultural labor, capital, and water were regarded as input elements of the agricultural production function. The maximum likelihood estimation (MLE) method was used to analyze the technical efficiency, output elasticity, substitution elasticity, and relative variability of grain production in China from 2004 to 2018. The results showed that: (1) For the technical efficiency and output elasticity of the input factors of grain production, there were significant differences in different provinces. For example, the water resource was insufficient in Beijing and Shanghai, but the output elasticity of water was high. Heilongjiang was rich in water and had high technical efficiency. For Xinjiang, water was sufficient, but its output elasticity was deficient and the technical efficiency didn’t increase. (2) The overall technical efficiency level was relatively low and was still declining year by year; the output elasticity of water was much greater than that of capital. There was still great potential for grain growth. (3) Optimizing resource allocation and controlling the appropriate ratio of input factors to develop grain production could achieve the maximum benefits. Finally, according to the empirical results, this paper put forward some practical policy suggestions for optimizing the allocation of input factors, especially water and capital, which can ultimately improve agricultural productivity by improving technical efficiency. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: Sustainable Development)
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23 pages, 5636 KiB  
Article
Consequences of Transport Low-Carbon Transitions and the Carbon, Land and Water Footprints of Different Fuel Options in The Netherlands
Water 2020, 12(7), 1968; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12071968 - 11 Jul 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 4194
Abstract
Transport greenhouse gas emissions are mainly caused by the use of fossil fuels, e.g., gasoline and diesel. This case study for The Netherlands calculates how alternative fuels, e.g., electricity, hydrogen or biofuels, contribute to policy aims to decarbonize transport. Alternative fuels, produced in [...] Read more.
Transport greenhouse gas emissions are mainly caused by the use of fossil fuels, e.g., gasoline and diesel. This case study for The Netherlands calculates how alternative fuels, e.g., electricity, hydrogen or biofuels, contribute to policy aims to decarbonize transport. Alternative fuels, produced in various ways, have different carbon (CF), land (LFs) and water footprints (WFs). This study assesses CFs, LFs and WFs for fuels (kgCO2e/m2/m3 per GJ), showing differences among fuels dependent on primary energy sources. It calculates CFs, LFs and WFs for four scenarios with different fuels. The biofuel scenario is not attractive. CFs slightly decrease, while LFs and WFs increase enormously. The electricity scenario has small CFs and the smallest LFs and WFs, but this is only when using wind or solar energy. If storage is needed and hydrogen is produced using wind energy, CFs double from 3055 to 7074 kg CO2e, LFs increase from 15 × 106 to 43 × 106 m2 and WFs from 3 × 106 to 37 × 106 m3 compared to the electricity scenario. The case study shows that wise fuel choices contribute to policy aims to decarbonize transport, although LFs and WFs are also important to consider. These case study results are relevant for sustainable transportation transitions worldwide. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: Sustainable Development)
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17 pages, 1800 KiB  
Article
The Role of Communication in Managing Complex Water–Energy–Food Governance Systems
Water 2020, 12(4), 1183; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12041183 - 20 Apr 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3604
Abstract
Managers of federal, state, local, and nonprofit organizations around the world are faced with the complex task of managing interconnected systems of scarce resources. One key example of this has been the recent research on the connections between water, energy, and food/agriculture, and [...] Read more.
Managers of federal, state, local, and nonprofit organizations around the world are faced with the complex task of managing interconnected systems of scarce resources. One key example of this has been the recent research on the connections between water, energy, and food/agriculture, and the problem of managing these resources to be sustainable and reduce the likelihood of resource depletion. While engineering research has focused on achieving greater efficiencies in resource management, less attention has been given to issues of governance within the fragmented, decentralized, and polycentric systems that are responsible for resource delivery. The central question animating this paper is whether resource management decisions in water, energy, and food are siloed, and what theoretical frameworks can be leveraged to develop strategies to break down existing silos. Results from a survey of water agencies suggests that there is little communication between the water, energy, and food policy areas. If achieving greater nexus requires increased communication and repeated interactions, there is significant work to be done to re-think how policy and management are organized and conducted. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: Sustainable Development)
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