The Water Food Energy Nexus

The Water Food Energy Nexus


For every 1°C (1.8°F) increase in the global average temperature, UN projects a 20 percent drop in renewable water resources while Global water demand is projected to increase by 20 to 30% by 2050. Smart water management is vital to economic, health and social growth of humanity through eliminating hunger and ensuring good health and well-being.

Interestingly, 72% of all water withdrawals are used by agriculture, 16% by municipalities for households and services, and 12% by industries.

How do we then increase water availability and access with minimal energy, hence minimal carbon footprint? The easy way to think about this is to look into the brackish water or sea water with the use of desalination technologies, whose downside may be the high energy demand, with a carbon footprint of about 1.5KG of Carbon for every 1 m3 of water. In addition, the environmental impact from its by-product, brine,  greatly impacts its effectiveness.

The less talked about but effective solution to global water scarcity actually lies in its distribution, efficiency in its use and ability to invest in technology to lower costs on sourcing, recycling and reuse of water.

Smarter Agriculture: Food and energy production are both highly water intensive. Agriculture is the largest consumer of the world’s freshwater resources, and more than one-quarter of the energy used globally is expended on food production and supply. 90% of global power generation is water-intensive, such as its use in coal-fired power plants and in nuclear reactors, and in bio-fuel crop production. This are all essential to our survival. knowing that Water, Food, Energy are the most essential to humans should drive us to seek innovation within their nexus. Improving efficiency on the use of water in the food and energy production will enable supply that may as well meet our urbanisation water needs, industrial needs.

Integrated management of water-food-energy have to be a top priority. Because of the water-food-energy nexus’ crucial role in many of the humanity survival aspects, the options that need to be considered include:

Supply infrastructure efficiency
– Need to develop and invest in Micro-water grids to increase energy efficiency and reduce the pumping costs for pipelines transfer from water rich areas . Improved and multipurpose storage reservoirs and advanced regional water grids via transfer aqueducts and pipelines with maximum reductions in water mains leakages.

Smart Demand management options – Water demand management is highly linked with the ability to monitor water use in near realtime and adjusting the supply, while allowing constant visibility to the consumers to accordingly adjust usage hence demand.
Allowing creation of a self regulating, data driven approach to behavioural change and smart tariff management
At the same time, water saving devices such as toilets, showers and baths; water meters; water efficient domestic appliances; rainwater collection systems; grey-water recycling (i.e. water from showers, baths and sinks used for toilet flushing);

Efficient use and reuse of naturally occurring fresh water;  Investment on monitoring and replenishing of groundwater, and controlled river abstractions.

All this will be possible considering the fast pace of technology development and adoption towards achieving a greener better and advanced society.

Having developed some of this technologies at  HydroIQ, Real-time water monitoring and and availing consumption data alone  can achieve an average water saving of 10 – 15 per cent per household. This water efficiency saving could be further increased with the introduction of “smart” metering and structured tariffs, for managing regional and seasonal tariffs. With existing high-efficiency technologies. Think “smart” pumps, leak detection sensors and other digitally-powered solutions that dramatically reduce the amount of energy used in the treatment and transport of water.

An article on The Water Food Energy nexus by Brian Bosire
Founder CEO at HydroIQ and UjuziKilimo.