Virtual Water and the Water-Energy Nexus

Today, human society has faced with the complicated challenge of growing resource scarcity. By the year 2030, the planet population will grow to over 8.5 billion people placing significant limitations on the availability of such crucial for the global economic resources as water, energy, and food (Wang 78).

This is especially the concern for developing countries. However, scientists are expressing a significantly more optimistic position based on the idea that the human engineering progress and the business efficiency rates achieved by the global companies will help to manage the resource scarcity issue. These scholars argue that current strategies implemented in multiple developing countries in the world including Mexico, China, Ukraine, Tanzania, South Africa, and Nigeria have already demonstrated the breakthrough in the area of resource management and suggested the strong grounds for the positive outlook. The following paper aims to observe the issues related to the interconnectedness between virtual water and the water-energy nexus to conclude the opportunities it may have for the global economy and society.

First, speaking about the relationship between virtual water and the water-energy nexus and its impact on the global economy, one needs to familiarize me with the two notions. Virtual water refers to the water resources utilized for all the production stages of agricultural or other products (Wales). The water-energy nexus can be defined as the notion that determines the interrelations between the water supply and the power economy (Maas 3).

The water-energy nexus is sometimes rendered as a ‘Nexus approach’. According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “a Nexus approach helps us to better understand the complex and dynamic interrelationships between water, energy, and food so that we can use and manage our limit that the water-energy nexus implicates that the same time as energy production is impossible without water, water production and distribution also requires colossal energy resources. To illustrate, energy production involves such processes with high water demand as thermoelectric cooling, fuel production, hydropower, emission controls, and extraction and mining (Velazquez and Galan-del-Castillo 1437).

Water production and distribution in its turn are also impossible without energy because these processes include such high-energy consumption activities as pumping, transport, and wastewater processing (Ringler, Bhaduri, and Lawford 617). Andy Wales rendered this close interconnectedness between industrial water and energy as the triangle of water, energy, and food.

Triangle of the water and energy and food nexus is often seen as the challenge of the growing resource scarcity for humanity. Numerous researchers see this triangle as a univocally negative phenomenon for global resource distribution and environmental resources (Ringler, Bhaduri, and Lawford 621).

However, there is also the broad group of scientists who argue that this triangle is the absolute benefit because if it is optimized and managed effectively, it leads to excellent results in the field of water and energy economy (Ringler, Bhaduri, and Lawford 621). In his talk “The Water-Food-Energy Nexus – Why Everything You Consume Is Connected”, Andy Wales explains that the triangle of the water and energy and food nexus is “of opportunity not just the risk”.

To support his statement, he provides an argument that there is a growing number of businesses in the world that managed to improve the rates of water and energy economy using a better understanding of how the concept of the water and energy and food nexus can be used. Wales comments that the optimization of manufacturing processes done with the view of water and energy and food triangle in mind is the solution for the problem of resource scarcity. The speaker narrates numerous examples in support of his position. One of these examples is the agricultural company operating large barley fields in Idaho, the United States (U.S.).

Addressing the background information, Idaho is one of the U.S. states that faced the problem of considerable warming and corresponding water resource scarcity. Given the water resource challenges, the management of the agricultural company mentioned above has developed the strategy for water usage reduction through energy efficiency. The outcome was the 20% reduction of water utilized for barley growing.

An effective approach to the management of the triangle of the water, energy, and food nexus can serve the major solution of the resource scarcity problem as far as Andy Wales believes. However, he clarifies that considerable advancement in this area is not possible for global companies and smaller business players without significant help from the government. The main issue regarding the role of the government is conflicting policies existence (Wales).

Conflicting policies regulating the use of water, energy, and food manufacturing is the major negative factor preventing businesses from achieving better results in the field of resource efficiency. To provide more details into the problem understanding, Wales narrates the example from Tanzania, where the government adopted the two contradicting policies regulating water pricing for corporate business and private users making the situation highly nonaqueous for the big companies. The outcome was the inability of the international company aiming to launch a big business project targeting the problem of water economy to realize it. Based on the presented illustration, the speaker concluded that to solve the issue, business players and governments have to build coalitions to tackle the water, energy, and food nexus and environmental challenges.

Virtual water interconnectedness with the water-energy nexus is also seen for the psychology of consumption (Maas 6). Wales explains that the psychology of consumption is another perspective that helps see that virtual water needs can be significantly reduced through water-energy nexus. Wales argues that global society has to change the approach to the psychology of consumption by developing a more respectful attitude to the resources that people use daily.

He states that mere change of attitudes to such daily activities as drinking the morning coffee, using magazines or having a beer at the end of the working day and being more reasonable will help improve the state of affairs with the amount of virtual water used dramatically. Wales also argues that the transformation of the psychology of consumption is an essential element of a Nexus approach.

In conclusion, it should be pointed out that virtual water interconnectedness with the water-energy nexus is associated with the concept of the triangle of the water, energy, and food nexus. The triangle concept implicates that the optimization of losses at every stage of resource usage beginning from product making to product consumption will help to save the virtual water volumes. To make this optimization possible, coalitions between all the stakeholders are necessary beginning from the cooperation between businesses and governments and ending with the psychology of consumption transformation in the mind of common buyers.

Works Cited

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: A New Approach in Support of Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture. 2016. Web.

Maas, Carol. Ontario’s’ Water-Energy Nexus. 2016. Web.

Ringler, Claudia, Anik Bhaduri, and Richard Lawford. “The Nexus Across Water, Energy, Land And Food (WELF): Potential For Improved Resource Use Efficiency?.” Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 5.6 (2013): 617-624. Print.

Velazquez, Esther, and Elena Galan-del-Castillo. “From Water to Energy: The Virtual Water Content and Water Footprint of Biofuel Consumption in Spain.” Energy Policy 38.3 (2010): 1345-1352. Print.

Wales, Andy. The Water-Food-Energy Nexus – Why Everything You Consume Is Connected. TEDx Talks. 2011. Web.

Wang, Young-Doo. “Virtual Water Management and the Water-Energy Nexus: A Case Study of Three Mid-Atlantic States.” Resources, Conservation and Recycling 98 (2015): 76-84. Print.