Social & Environmental Dimensions of the Food–Energy–Water Nexus

Printer-friendly versionPDF version

Water and energy systems are linked to food systems through myriad social and environmental processes and feedbacks. Food–energy–water (FEW) nexus research focuses on understanding the interconnections among FEW systems, in order to provide a more complete picture about the causes and consequences of changes within and across aspects of those systems.

Examples of research areas under this Theme could include (but are not limited to) exploring how:

  • Water and energy are both inputs and outputs from agricultural production, and food and energy systems compete for land, water, and other natural resources.
  • Food and energy production impact water demand and supply, which are both subject to ecological realities and social preferences.
  • Water and agricultural products are inputs into energy production, and also demand energy for utilization.
  • Disruptions in the provision of energy services upon which water treatment, production, and distribution rely can have direct implications for water security.
  • Fluctuations in energy prices can affect the availability, affordability, accessibility, and utilization of food over time.

This Theme is specifically focused on linkages between the food system and water and/or energy systems. Linkages of interest might include trade-offs and impacts of use and outputs from one system to another, causal pathways of how changes in the ecological or social aspects of one system impact characteristics of the others systems, and spatial and temporal patterns in how these systems are interconnected. FEW nexus research must explicitly address the feedbacks and relationships among FEW systems, and must go beyond simply identifying ways to conserve or make more efficient use of water, energy, or agricultural production as an input into one of the other systems.