The Water – Energy – Food Nexus, also referred to as the Water – Energy – Food – Ecosystems (WEFE) Nexus to explicitly recognize its environmental dimension, has emerged as a key framework to address complex resource and development challenges over the past 10 years.It stems from the realization that water, energy, agriculture, and natural ecosystems exhibit strong interlinkages (see Figure 1), and that under a traditional sectoral approach, attempting to achieve resource security independently often endangers sustainability and security in one or more of the other sectors.
The WEFE Nexus approach supports an integrated and coordinated approach across sectors, with a view to reconcileconflicting interests, all the while capturing existing opportunities and exploring emerging ones. It aims to reduce trade-offs and enhance the efficiency of the entire system through synergies, whilemaintaining the integrity of our ecosystems. Depending on the context and objectives, a WEFE Nexus approach may include:
- A Nexus assessment that analyses interlinkages, synergies, and trade-offs, with the aim of identifying solutions, fostering water-food-energy security and efficiency, and reducing impacts and risks on ecosystems. The Nexus Framework tool on the GWP Toolbox describes the methodology for such an assessment: [ Nexus Framework | GWP Toolbox].
- Development of governance and management responses, including identifying pressing issues, developing scenarios, and assessing potential response options, considering trade-offs and benefits, decision-making, and implementation. Potential responses may include policy measures (e.g., incentives and other financial instruments), institutional mechanisms, legislation, planning, investments, or adaptation of infrastructures.
- On-the-ground Nexus interventions, implementing Nexus solutions that respond to resource and development challenges.
- All of these should build on an inclusive multi-stakeholder engagement process.
In many ways, IWRM and the WEFE Nexus are closely related; a difference is that IWRM starts with the water resource whereas nexus approaches look at all three elements as an interrelated system from the start – water concerns, however, often act as a catalyst for Nexus approaches.
By considering uses, needs, socio-economic benefits, synergies, and trade-offs between water, food, and energy objectives, and by supporting the formulation of appropriate solutions with stakeholders, the WEFE nexus approach directly contributes to achieving the SDGs, and especially SDG 2, SDG 6, and SDG 7, in an environmentally sustainable manner.
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