The Alberta Water Nexus Project

Water, food, and energy sustain life, environmental ecosystems, and the economy. However, as demands on these resources continue to grow on a global scale, demand for these resources will also converge.

To better understand these resource conflicts, the water-food-energy nexus (known as the Nexus) seeks to connect systems to achieve a more holistic management of natural resources.

The Alberta Water Nexus Project is a first in Alberta. Starting with a pilot in the Bow River Basin, we analyze strategic plans and existing watershed and industry data, to inform calculations to show the influence converging water use has on overall water management and availability on a regional basis. We recognize there is no clear solution a specific industry or level of government can implement on their own, and hope this project will reinforce that water decisions in one industry have multiple, potentially unpredictable, impacts in other industries and water applications.

What is the Water-Food-Energy Nexus?

In recent years, numerous organizations have acknowledged the importance of the Nexus, recognizing the concept in the following ways:

  • The World Economic Forum identifies the Nexus as the interconnectedness of water, energy, food, and climate [1].
  • AB Nexus QuoteAt the 2011 Nexus Conference held by the German Federal Government, the Nexus was loosely defined as the relationships and interdependencies between the secure supply of water, energy, and food [2].
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAOUN) describes the Nexus as “the complex and inter-related nature of our global resource systems”, wherein “different resource user goals and interests” must be balanced, while also maintaining ecosystem integrity [3].
  • A report published by Ceres in 2015 recognizes the Nexus as the connections between water security, agricultural production, and economics [4].

A common understanding of the Nexus concept is its critical role in the sustainable management of resources by identifying key interdependencies between multiple sectors [5]. For example, the water, food, and energy sectors each face overlapping challenges that require decisions to consider multiple interdependencies and trade-offs. These trade-offs can be challenges such as water use, crop yield, or energy production [6].

Furthermore, the Nexus concept recognizes that interactions between the natural environment and human, social, and economic needs can be managed in relation to one another [7]. This approach can help manage trade-offs between interconnected sectors, while identifying common issues between sectors to limit challenges, such as competition and resource scarcity [8].

Alberta Water Nexus

Explore the Nexus concept in the Bow River Basin in Alberta

The Water-Food-Energy Nexus in Alberta

Converging factors affecting the Bow River Basin

Water management decision making in the Bow River Basin

Over the coming months specific case studies examined in the Bow River Sub-Basin will be published here on the Alberta WaterPortal, as part of the development of a decision support tool that reflects the Nexus challenges.

With further development the tool could be adapted to other sub-basins, to help fill the current gap in understanding appropriate uses of Alberta’s water resources in the future.

 


 

Thank you to our generous sponsors of the Alberta Water Nexus Project

 This project is made possible through sponsorship from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, Fondation Veolia, and Enbridge.

Alberta Real Estate FoundationFondation VeoliaEnbridge

 


 

Sources

[1] "Water Security - The Water-Food-Energy-Climate Nexus." World Economic Forum. Accessed October 2015. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_WI_WaterSecurity_WaterFoodEnergyClimateNexus_2011.pdf

[2] “The Water, Energy, and Food Security Nexus – Solutions for the Green Economy.” German Federal Government. Accessed October 2015. https://www.water-energy-food.org/about/bonn2011-conference/

[3] “The Water-Energy-Food Nexus – A New Approach in Support of Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Accessed October 2015.  http://www.water-energy-food.org/en/conference.html

[4] “Feeding Ourselves Thirsty: How the Food Sector is Managing Global Water Risks.” CERES. Accessed October 2015.  http://www.ceres.org/issues/water/agriculture/water-risks-food-sector

[5] “The Water-Energy-Food Nexus – A New Approach in Support of Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Accessed October 2015. http://www.water-energy-food.org/en/conference.html

[6] “The Water-Food-Energy Nexus: Towards Planning and Decision Support Framework for Landscape Investment and Risk Management.” International Institute for Sustainable Development. Accessed October 2015. http://www.iisd.org/pdf/2013/wef_nexus_2013.pdf

[7] “The Water-Energy-Food Nexus – A New Approach in Support of Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Accessed October 2015. http://www.water-energy-food.org/en/conference.html

[8] Ibid.