Water, energy, and food are interconnected resource systems which face numerous challenges including a growing global population, economic crises, poverty and hunger, and climatic uncertainties. Meeting these challenges requires a paradigm shift in our conventional resource allocation model to account for the tight interconnections that exists among them. In working towards this goal, the authors have developed a resource allocation strategy assessment platform (WEF Nexus Tool 2.0©) that aims to support decision-makers in identifying sustainable resource management strategies informed by the water-energy-food nexus.
The WEF Nexus Tool 2.0 serves as a common platform that brings together scientific know-how and policy input in an effort to identify current and anticipated bottlenecks in resource allocation trends, while highlighting possible trade-offs and opportunities to overcome resource stress challenges. The tool is scenario-based and attempts to explicitly quantify the interconnections between the three resources, while capturing the effects of population growth, changing economies and policies, climate change and other stresses. It provides the user with the ability to create scenarios for a given country by defining the following inputs:
• Food portfolio: identifying local food production levels versus imports, and technologies in agricultural production.
• Water portfolio: identifying different sources of water and amounts needed of each.
• Energy portfolio: identifying sources of energy for water, and energy for agricultural production.
Even though the water-energy-food framework is generic, scenarios created by the tool are site specific and defined by the local characteristics of the area of study. These may include local yields of food products, water and energy availability and requirements, available technologies and land requirements. The characteristics are defined by the user and allow for the creation of country-specific profiles. The WEF Nexus Tool 2.0© enables users to visualize and compare the resource requirements of their scenarios, and calculate the ‘sustainability index’ of each scenario.
The tool’s user interface allows different players representing water, energy, food and trade strategies to create scenarios and indicate their priorities and preferences. The complexities which are part of the admin interface are not visible to the user to keep the user experience simple. The point at which a decision-maker becomes involved is critical. The tool does not take over the decision-maker’s authority or make decisions on their behalf, rather, it provides the ability to assess possible scenarios and highlight the trade-offs associated with each. These trade-offs would then be presented to the decision-maker who would prioritize them and make choices based on simplified results.
Computer models and programmes, Sets of monitoring indicators and indices, Scenario builders, forecasting and back-casting methodologies
Bassel Daher and Rabi Mohtar, Water-Energy-Food Nexus Research Group, Texas A&M University
Rabi Mohtar and Bassel Daher
WEF Nexus Research Group, Texas A&M University