Martin Keulertz, Jeanie Sowers, Rabi Mohtar and I have just published an article on the The Water-Energy-Food Nexus in Arid Regions: The Politics of Problemsheds in the Oxford Handbook of Water Politics and Policy.
Systems of producing, consuming, and distributing water, energy, and food involve trade-offs that are rarely explicitly considered by firms and policymakers. The idea of the water-energy-food “nexus” represents an attempt to formalize these trade-offs into decision-making processes. Multinational food and beverage firms operating in arid regions were early promoters of nexus approaches, followed by aid donors, consultancies, and international institutions seeking a new paradigm for resource management and development planning. The first generation of nexus research focused on quantitative input-output modeling to empirically demonstrate interdependencies and options for optimizing resource management. This chapter employs a different approach, analyzing institutional “problemsheds” that shape the implementation of nexus initiatives in arid regions of the United States, the Persian/Arabian Gulf, and China. Our analysis reveals how nexus approaches are conditioned by property rights regimes, economic growth strategies based on resource extraction, and the ability to externalize environmental costs to other regions and states.