Water-Energy-Food Nexus in Himalayan Region

IRENA is short for the International Renewable Energy Agency, an organization that provides guidance to countries in switching to the viable energy sources. Moreover, the purpose of this unrivaled agency is to provide necessary information on a subject, such as data about renewable energy, best practice material, advice about financial mechanisms, etc. Developing countries have high needs of access to food, water and energy supplies, demands for which is growing as the country flourishes. These needs may also vary with climate, thus efficient adaptation to these changes oblige to the effective utilization of resources. IRENA helps to coordinate endeavours in minimizing compromises and enlarging synergies in the usage of water, energy, land and other fundamental resources.

In this article the International Renewable Energy Agency used the Hindu Kush Himalayan region as an illustration to how a nexus-based adjustment can be a deciding factor in developing an effective industry of renewable energy. The study of the agency is showing how the interlinkages in the water, energy, and food nexus can create a favourable environment for sustainable improvement and adaptation.

By the year 2050 the demand for water and other resources of our planet will double, according to forecasts. It has become a worldwide problem to handle this almost sudden dash of supplications in order to overcome the growing pressure. This issue within the limits of natural resources and virtually unpredictable changes in climate requires rethinking of the way the world consumes and converts energy regarding food and water category. Up to this day the awareness of the position of the renewable energy in the nexus was extremely finite and scattered. Renewable Energy in the Water, Energy & Food Nexus is meant to shed the light on the synergy of renewables and the key sectors of the nexus, such as water and food. The research was based on not only global instances, but also country-sized cases to specify how the renewable energy, the matter of the study, is able to focus on the trade-offs and prevent the irrational and erroneous use of water, food and energy.

The research Renewable Energy in the Water, Energy & Food Nexus begins with summarily introducing the core of the nexus along with some risks that follow its interrelations. However, the research proceeds with the explication of those risks by the means of different combined solutions, with technologies of renewable energy among them. Chapter 2 of the study proceeds to expand the function of the renewable energy in the trade-offs, moreover, it reveals its possibilities to make the chains of water, food and energy supply more volatile. The key to success of this theory is to classify the renewables’ interference as a holistic separate segment. The last, but not the least chapter 3 offers and develops the concept of tools that are available to the policy makers and will estimate the role of the renewable energy in the given nexus.

“Water, energy and food systems are closely interlinked. These interlinkages intensify as the demand for resources increases with population growth and changing consumption patterns” (IRENA, 2015). Those are the first words of the first chapter, as it introduces the intertwine between three main components of the nexus and explains the interplay of three dimensions: water-energy, water-food and energy-food. The number of specific risks and geographical importance of the given challenges are represented in each chapter, along with capabilities for adopting solutions which lead to integrated results.

The first dimension ‘water-energy’ represents the two perilous inputs of resources necessary for the economic growth of the country, as water is the key to almost every procedure of energy production. On the contrary, the inputs of energy are distributed by the water supply chain. According to the study, this chain is quite simple: at first its origin lies in the source, where water gets extracted, then it is directed to its final destination (it is possible that it gets treated in between). After being once used, water is rebounding back into the environment through evaporation or discharge. Energy inputs are required for almost every position of this chain, depending on the conditions. This synergy between energy and water resources is the core of the water-energy nexus.

The concentration of the mentioned nexus varies widely, as it is a strictly regional component. It depends on various factors, including energy mix, presence and facility of access of resources and other demand characteristics. The demand for energy in the water chain has a tendency to increase annually, whereas comprehensive statistics on the use of energy in the process of extracting, delivering and treating water lingers to be limited. In the areas with limited water resources the certain technologies are preferred, as long as they don’t force additional strain on water reserves. On the other hand, the power production demands the preference of technologies and fuel that control the quantity of the required water. In this nexus the water sector represents many risks towards the energy security; nonetheless, they were carefully studied and now are divided into water-related and energy-related risks to security.

The water-food relationship appears to be one of the most extensively covered elements in the nexus. Through many years a pattern had developed, in which the growth of agricultural level was directly proportional to the availability of water supplies. According to the research, “agriculture is the world’s largest user of water, accounting for over 70% of global freshwater withdrawals (and up to 90% in some countries)”. Nevertheless, agriculture both causes and suffers from water pollution. It is explained by the circulation of water: high percentage of the consumable water streams back to the surface or/and underground natural supplies. Taking into account the fact that the use of fertilizers and pesticides has greatly expanded, this kind of water filtration allows discharging some sediment. On the other hand, polluted surfaces and wastewater are reused for agriculture purposes, and could lead to possible crop contamination.

Damages during the agricultural processes and food supply chain enact losses along the production resources, water and energy precisely. Despite the fact that the loss of water and energy remains within normal in global proportions, at country levels, it becomes much more significant: “In South Africa, the loss of nearly one third of food production annually wastes enough embedded energy to power the city of Johannesburg for an estimated 16 years. Water wastage amounts to roughly one-fifth of South Africa’s total water withdrawals”, the research says.

In order to meet the increasing demand for food and water, attentive management of hazards and opportunities is required; it is closely connected with food and water security and relationships between these attributes.

The energy-food nexus is surrounded by the discussions primarily about the use of energy within the confines of the food supply chain. The last involves quite compelling amounts of energy; moreover, there are various alterations in consuming the energy (distribution, retail, preparation, etc.). With the growing demand for the food supply (50% by 2050), the economies of Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa will demand more energy inputs. Another crucial question is the amount of food wasted and the energy embedded in it. “Approximately a third of all food produced is lost or wasted each year, resulting in a waste of 1 to 1.5% of total global energy use”. The loss of food supplies indicates wastage of water, energy and human resources put into its manufacturing, adding a share to a greenhouse effect at the same time.

Awareness of the risks in the energy-food nexus and its synergies leads to a conclusion that pursuing the security goals of this dimension has to affect both food and energy sectors simultaneously.

Water, food and energy create a complex nexus, all sectors of which are dependent on each other and can influence the security of supplies. With the growth of requirements in resources only expected to extend, the struggle and insufficiency will affect the chains of all sectors. It is only logical to suggest improving and encouraging growth while all sectors are responsive to social, economic and environmental connotations.

The energy sector is already going through significant changes, which involve the implementation of renewable energy technologies. Moreover, more than half countries have already developed concepts of managing the integrated water resources. As for the remaining regions, they are on the last steps of the fulfilment of the program. The food sector is undergoing through changes as well: more sustainable and efficient measures have been taken. “Agro-ecosystems” are an advanced integrated agricultural practice, which is believed to improve the work quality of the sector. Nonetheless, despite all positive innovations and modifications, some challenges are left.

The fact that the measures should not be taken for individual sectors is more than indisputable. The development strategies have to permeate through all dimensions in order to maintain trade-offs better. Moreover, whilst improving the concept of nexus from the side of the supply saving, the climate ambitions should also be taken into consideration: “What contributes greatly to the sustainability of an existing (water, energy or food) system is essentially the sustainability of the resource inputs along different stages of the supply chain”, the research claims. Nowadays, by virtue of renewable energy technologies, there are solutions, that can maintain both enhanced sector security with the help of trade-offs and leveraging on synergies in these dimensions.

Renewable energy technologies now have become representatives of a common source of energy. The benefits from using this measure are unrivaled due to its environmentally friendly origin and reduction of resource usage. Over the past decade, the renewable energy distribution has expanded tremendously, thus inducing growth in all sectors. Renewable Energy in the Water, Energy & Food Nexus not only draws attention to the relevance of water, energy, and food nexus links, but also to a role of renewable energy in these sectors. Some of the renewable energy resources (solar, tidal and wind) are already accessible without special fuel processing; others, however, could require water inputs according to the feedstock production. Nevertheless, renewable energy technologies undoubtedly are the future of manufacturing, if taking all risks into consideration.