Towards Operationalising the Water-Energy-Food Nexus


Pamela Katic and R. Quentin Grafton


This technical report examines the profound connections between food, energy and water (the Nexus) at a global level. Going beyond a description, insights are provided about how to operationalise Nexus thinking in practical ways that respond from the local to global water risks.

The world is rapidly approaching tipping points in terms of climate change, biodiversity and water consumption. Business as usual is increasing cascading and systemic risks that link across multiple systems; especially, water, food and energy. Despite a water-food-energy crisis in 2007–08 that had severe and negative global impacts, another nexus crisis emerged in 2021–22 which plunged tens of millions into severe food insecurity and compromised the nutrition of hundreds of millions of people.

Against this background, there needs to be a transformational shift from silo thinking to nexus thinking and nexus doing. This requires: a much better way of “connecting the dots” in understanding and responding to risks at multiple scales; improved international collaboration, especially in relation to food trade restrictions; more inclusive decision-making; and policies that prioritise system resilience as a key objective. Without a change in how decision-making is practised the world will face increasingly frequent, and of greater magnitude, global nexus crises.


Katic, P. and R.Q. Grafton (2023), Towards Operationalising the Water-Energy-Food Nexus (Technical Report), Global Commission on the Economics of Water, Paris.

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