The majority of freshwater is used for agriculture (more than 70%), other major users include industry, domestic or power generation. Many countries need to retain water in their dams and reservoirs to serve the irrigation needs of their food production. At the same time, the generation of electricity requires substantial amounts of water in most cases. This can create competing demands and possibly conflicts between sectors and countries about available water resources that are often limited.
Furthermore, the impacts of climate change have increasing effects on people and ecosystems. This is exacerbated by a raising demand for water due to population and economic growth, higher temperatures and decrease in precipitation in certain regions.
These challenges need to be addressed by ensuring a better management of interlinked sectors. One example is to reconcile possible competing demands for water for energy and agriculture, while securing needs for underpinning ecosystems. This must be done in an integrated, transboundary, and equitable way, and by enhancing cooperation across borders.
The Nexus approach
The Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystem Nexus (WEFE Nexus) approach highlights the interdependence of water, energy and food security and ecosystems – water, soil, and land – that underpin that security. The Nexus approach identifies mutually beneficial responses that are based on understanding the synergies of water, energy, and agricultural policies. It also provides an informed and transparent framework for determining the proper trade-offs and synergies that maintain the integrity and sustainability of ecosystems.
The WEFE Nexus approach uses context-specific solutions based on different levels of interventions to achieve long-term economic, environmental, and social goals. Bringing the Nexus debate from the academic sphere into development practice faces significant barriers, including challenges to cross-sectoral collaboration and the complexity and incompatibility of current institutional structures. However, greater recognition of sectoral interdependence can help to overcome these barriers.
The Council conclusions on Water in the EU’s external actions emphasize the importance of water governance and the role of integrated water resource management (IWRM) as the core process to promote coordinated development and sustainable management of water, land, and related resources. IWRM secures economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.
The EU is supporting the Nexus Regional Dialogues Programme, an independent information and facilitating platform developed within the framework of the Global Programme 'Nexus Regional Dialogues'. It is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) jointly funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Union.
Position Paper on Water, Energy, Food and Ecosystem (WEFE) Nexus and Sustainable development Goals (SDGs)
Implementing the Water–Energy–Food–Ecosystems Nexus and Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (water-energy-food.org)
Water, Energy, Food Security, Ecosystems in Africa – JRC Technical Reports