Preserving the Water-Food-Energy Nexus for Sustainable Development

Going Green With Brown

Sustainable development and national security have a common nexus based on water, energy, and food. The United Nations has stated the water-food-energy nexus is vital for sustainable development especially as the world population continues to increase. An integrated framework of the nexus is vital for both security and resiliency. According to the United Nations, 72% of water is used in agricultural production and food production is responsible for 30% of global energy consumption. This fragile synergy needs more attention to ensure global resiliency for resources. The drivers pointed out by the United Nations below outline how the nexus is composed.

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

When nations lack water, food, or energy, there is potential for civil strife and impacts to socio-economic conditions. This nexus is not limited to developing countries—recently the state of California was impacted by a disruption in the nexus. The Oroville Dam did not have enough water flow to generate electricity. According to the California Independent System Operator, drought conditions have reduced overall hydro capacity by 1,000 MW of electricity generation. This also had a cascading impact on water flow to the Central Valley for food production. The impacts caused electrical providers to seek additional electricity sources, including the California Public Utility Commission authorizing emergency procurement for summer grid reliability

The ability to meet future changes and immediate changes can be mitigated. Master planning is the key to resiliency in the water-food-energy nexus. The ability to forecast and mitigate damages comes from identifying the risks and mitigating the risks. The COVID-19 pandemic coupled with drought conditions on the west coast has caused food prices to increase. Additionally, the hot summer has increased energy demands and water demands. As demands increase, the stress on the nexus is increased. Recognizing the boundaries and reducing the stress points will help in creating a sustainable path forward. 

The example above with the Oroville Dam shows the nexus is more localized than the national level. Local and state agencies should be reviewing how this nexus could impact their communities. How would increased stress on food, energy, or water prices impact them? The impacts of climate change, drought, and water drying up in history are not new. However, the ability to apply science, technology, and planning is becoming better. As our knowledge increases, our ability to become more sustainable is improved. 

There are solutions, and Nexus PMG is becoming a front leader in master planning in energy to help provide a path forward to a more sustainable environment. 

Bernard Brown

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