By Prabin Rokaya
I am very optimistic about the Water, Energy and Food Nexus. But for me, the nexus is not just an instrument to achieve certain ends, but rather a process with debates of alternatives. It is very promising.
One thing that we have to realize is that the interconnection between water, energy and food is so complex that we cannot solve these issues individually. For instance, 30-50% of water cost is energy cost that is required to produce, transfer, or pump water. If we take the example of Jordan, then more than 15% of total electricity demand is for water supply. Similarly, more than 90% of water use in world is in agriculture sector for food production.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates we need 2-4 litre water per person per day for drinking, but to produce the food we eat we need 1000-5000 litres of water per person per day. That is a huge amount.
We need an integrated approach to solve these issues. Yes, there are challenges. Integration is never easy. These sectors now have different institutional arrangements, structures, operational policies, and goals. Certainly, bringing them at one place is difficult.
To be honest, I do not know exactly how to integrate them. With a higher level of integration, there is even a higher level of complexity and uncertainty.
But it is also not so impossible. If you check out the site Water Footprint, it shows that one litre of tap water needs needs one litre of water. For one litre of bottled water, it needs 5 litres of water. A loaf of bread needs 960 litres of water, 1kg of chicken needs 3900 litres, 1 kg of pork needs 4800 litres, and 1 kg of beef needs 15500 litres.
It is not only about the type of food but also the kind: processed or unprocessed food have different water footprints. For instance, to produce one orange, it needs 50 litres water, but to produce one glass of orange juice, it needs 170 litres. By changing our food habits, we can really contribute in water conservation. By reducing energy use, we can actually save water. This is where the Nexus comes in. We can drink tap water, we can eat whole, unprocessed food, and also buy local products to reduce carbon footprint.
Finally, I would like to say five points on why the Nexus is effective:
First, the Nexus increases efficiency in the sectors. Second, it reduces trade-offs. Third, it builds synergies. Then, it improves governance across cross sectors. Last but not the least, it helps to reach the goal of green economy of Rio+20.