Publications

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has established the Water‐Energy‐Food Nexus, implying that the three commodities are inextricably linked forming a complex system of interrelations. Perceiving water, energy and food as a system variable with dependencies rather than a singularity suggests an approach of a more holistic view that can offer a sustainable plan for managing resources. In this article, the already established three‐way Nexus is expanded to include two more dimensions, namely land use and climate and a frame-work for modelling the interlinkages among these dimensions is presented.


Work Package Number: WP7
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Water, energy and food are essential resources for economic development and social well-being. Framing integrated policies that improve their efficient use requires understanding the interdependencies in the water–energy–food (WEF) nexus. Stakeholder involvement in this process is crucial to represent multiple perspectives,ensure political legitimacy and promote dialogue. In this research, we develop and apply a participatory modelling approach to identify the main interlinkages within the WEF nexus in Andalusia, as a starting point to developing a system dynamic model at a later stage. The application of fuzzy cognitive mapping enabled us to gain knowledge on the WEF nexus according to opinions from 14 decision-makers, as well as contributing to raising awareness and building consensus among stakeholders. Results show that climate change and water availability are key drivers in the WEF nexus in Andalusia. Other variables with significant interlinkages within the WEF nexus are food production, irrigated agriculture, energy cost, socio-economic factors, irrigation water use, environmental conservation, and farm performance indicators. The scenario analysis reveals the interdependencies among nexus sectors and the existence of unanticipated effects when changing variables in the system, which need to be considered to design integrated policies.


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Climate change in Mediterranean countries is anticipated to have a strong impact on water availability by exacerbating drought conditions and water scarcity. In this context, efficient irrigation practices are becoming essential for sustaining crop production. This work assesses vulnerability of irrigated agriculture for six irrigation districts and their associated reservoirs in Mediterranean areas across Italy under climate change (1976–2005 versus 2036–2065; RCP 4.5 and 8.5), evaluating changes in irrigation requirements, evaporation from reservoirs, and the availability of freshwater supplies. Irrigation requirements are estimated through a crop water model (SIMETAW_R) integrated into a GIS platform, while inflows to reservoirs are hydrologically modelled as partitioning of precipitation contributing to runoff. Results are aggregated into indicators that show the general decreasing resilience and increasing vulnerability of irrigated agriculture under climate change conditions in each case study. The highest percentage of allowable water losses for irrigation is estimated in the Cuga-Alto Temo system, during the prolonged drought period, to be able to satisfy irrigation demand for less than a year. Climate change may only partially affect irrigation in resilient systems, in which storage capacity and the water level entering into the reservoir are considerably higher than the water distribution volumes.


Work Package Number: WP7
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There is increasing interest in the global water-energy-food (WEF) system and potential system trajectories, especially considering growing concerns over resource exploitation and sustainability. Previous studies investigating different aspects of this system have a number of shortcomings, meaning it is difficult to identify system-wide tradeoffs, and makes comparison difficult. A global analysis of the WEF system linked to gross domestic product (GDP) growth is presented, integrating the four sectors into a coherent analysis and modelling framework. GDP was included as previous related work demonstrates a link between GDP and each WEF sector. A system dynamics modelling approach quantifies previously qualitative descriptions of the global WEF-GDP system, while a Monte-Carlo sampling approach is adopted to characterise national-level variability in resource use. Correlative and causal analysis show links of varying strength between sectors. For example, the GDPelectricity consumption sectors are strongly correlated while food production and electricity consumption are weakly correlated. Causal analysis reveals that ‘correlation does not imply causation’. There are noticeable asymmetries in causality between certain sectors. Historical WEF-GDP values are well recreated. Future scenarios were assessed using seven GDP growth estimates to 2100. Water withdrawals in 2100 and food production in 2050 are close to other estimations. Results suggest that humanity risks exceeding the ‘safe operating space’ for water withdrawal. Reducing water withdrawal while maintaining or increasing food production is critical, and should be decoupled from economic growth. This work provides a quantitative modelling framework to previously qualitative descriptions of the WEF-GDP system, offering a platform on which to build.


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Water, energy, food, land and climate form a tightly-connected nexus in which actions on one sector impact other sectors, creating feedbacks and unanticipated consequences. This is especially because at present, much scientific research and many policies are constrained to single discipline/sector silos that are often not interacting (e.g., water-related research/policy). However, experimenting with the interaction and determining how a change in one sector could impact another may require unreasonable time frames, be very difficult in practice and may be potentially dangerous, triggering any one of a number of unanticipated side-effects. Current modelling often neglects knowledge from practice. Therefore, a safe environment is required to test the potential cross-sectoral implications of policy decisions in one sector on other sectors. Serious games offer such an environment by creating realistic ‘simulations’, where long-term impacts of policies may be tested and rated. This paper describes how the ongoing (2016–2020) Horizon2020 project SIM4NEXUS will develop serious games investigating potential plausible cross-nexus implications and synergies due to policy interventions for 12 multi-scale case studies ranging from regional to global. What sets these games apart is that stakeholders and partners are involved in all aspects of the modelling definition and process,from case study conceptualisation, quantitative model development including the implementation and validation of each serious game. Learning from playing a serious game is justified by adopting a proof-of-concept for a specific regional case study in Sardinia(Italy). The value of multi-stakeholder involvement is demonstrated, and critical lessons learned for serious game development in general are presented.


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We appreciate the efforts Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) has made to review the concept of the waterenergy-food Nexus (Galaitsi et al., 2018) 10 years after the concept has surged to the attention of scientists and policy-makers (World Economic Forum water initiative, 2011). Such a critical reflection is timely and relevant, and it is admirable that it comes from one of the institutes that have contributed to launch the Nexus concept (Hoff, 2011). Some findings of the publication (e.g. regarding the links between key constraints of the Nexus, the main intervention points and potential outcomes) are relevant to guide SIM4NEXUS and other research initiatives on the Nexus. We however disagree with the conclusions. In the following we elaborate on our reasons, in the hope to stimulate a scholarly conversation leading to further developments of the Nexus research.


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The Nexus concept is the interconnection between the resources energy, water, food, land and climate. Such interconnections enable to address trade-offs and seek for synergies among them. Several policy areas (e.g. bio-based economy, circular economy) increasingly consider the Nexus concept. Ignoring synergies and trade-offs between energy and natural fl ows, can generate misleading modelling out- comes. Several modelling tools are available to address energy and the Nexus. Based on six such models, this paper aims to support the design and testing of coherent strategies for sustainable development. Model improvements would be achieved by comparing model outcomes and including a common baseline.


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WLEFC nexus: numerous interactions. Water, land, energy, food and climate are interconnected in many ways, comprising a complex system, the ‘WLEFC nexus’. Any given policy in one of the sectors of this nexus may have unintended positive or negative consequences for policies in one or more other sectors. Understanding such consequences is important for policy effectiveness. Policy coherence refers to the systematic effort to reduce conflict and promote synergy between various policies. The coherence between EU policies along the WLEFC nexus was analysed.


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