Productivity and the availability of water, energy and land vary enormously between regions and production systems. There is a large potential to increase overall resource use efficiency and benefits in production and consumption, e.g. by addressing intensive agriculture (which often has higher water productivity but lower energy productivity than other forms of agriculture) or water- and energy-intensive meat products. The nexus approach can boost this potential by addressing externalities across sectors.
For example, nexus thinking would address the energy intensity of desalination (also termed ‘bottled electricity’), or water demands in renewable energy production (e.g. biofuels and some hydropower schemes) or water demands of afforestation for carbon storage. Also, action to avoid or land degradation saves water and energy, for example by increasing soil water storage and groundwater recharge, as well as reducing the use of energy-intensive fertiliser.
Water, which has only very recently received attention in the Green Economy debate, is an essential input for all biomass growth and hence for all ecosystem services and associated jobs and livelihoods. Improved water resources and intact ecosystems (‘natural infrastructure’) can mutually reinforce each other and generate additional benefits.
This background paper also contributes to SEI’s work ahead of Rio+20.
Download the background paper (PDF, 3.07MB)