As concerns around water scarcity and energy security increase, so too has interest in the connections between these resources, through a concept called the water–energy nexus. Efforts to improve the integration of water and energy management and to understand their cross-sector relevance are growing.

In particular, this paper develops a better empirical understanding on the extent to which governance settings hinder and/or enable policy coherence between the water and energy sectors through a comparative analysis of two case studies, namely, Los Angeles County, California, the United States, and the city of Beijing, China. This paper examines the extent to which the institutional context enables policy coordination within (vertically) and between (horizontally) the water and energy sectors in Beijing and Los Angeles.

To do so, the authors propose a framework for analyzing policy integration for the water energy nexus based on environmental policy integration (EPI). The results highlight the multiple and flexible approaches of EPI in nexus governance, not least with regards to horizontal and vertical policy integration, but also in terms of explicit (i.e., intended) and implicit (i.e., unintended) coordination. The level of nexus-focused policy integration is highly dependent on the motivation at the local context and the criteria to evaluate policy success in each sector.