As the world’s population continues to rise, so does the increasing demand for water, energy and food. These three resources are inextricably linked and any shortage or disruption of one will significantly impact the other two. This is known as the water-energy-food nexus.
Funded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), interdisciplinary research groups based at 19 universities and research institutes will conduct research into the water-energy-food nexus. While these projects will focus on the nexus within the UK, external factors will also be considered so that this knowledge can be applied in an international context.
One of the projects is Vaccinating the Nexus, awarded £1.6 million to explore how shocks to the nexus (e.g. flooding and drought, energy shortages, unsustainable infrastructure) may be used to improve its resilience through the development of more sustainable and secure systems. Led by Dr Paul Kemp, Director of the International Centre for Ecohydraulics Research at the University of Southampton, it will use information collected during the recent flooding on the Somerset Levels to model the potential for alternative flood-resistant agricultural systems, including those used to produce bioenergy crops.
“Exploitation of any single resource in isolation can have negative impacts on interconnected sectors and more widely on our natural capital. We are facing unprecedented demand on our water, energy and food systems and business as usual is no longer an option,” said Dr Kemp.
Planning decision support tools will also be developed to help create an environmentally sensitive approach to delivering the UK’s energy and water infrastructure plan. Collaborating partners include the Scientific & Technology Facilities Council, the University of Bath, the University of Nottingham, University College London, Aberystwyth University, Loughborough University and HR Wallingford’s School of Oriental & African Studies.
The project arises from an earlier WUN-funded program on Eco-Hydrology led by Dr Paul Kemp and is further evidence of the critical role WUN can play in catalysing significant international research collaborations.
The two other projects funded by the EPSRC include: Water Energy Food WEFWEBs, led by the University of Glasgow, which will produce nexus models that describe interdependencies in the nexus systems using case studies; Stepping Up, led by the University of Manchester, which will Identify UK examples of existing structures or initiatives with low impact across water, food and energy systems and investigate how the conditions that make them work can apply in other settings.
For more information, visit Living with Environmental Change Sandpit