Innovatively addressing WEF challenges

Chairs : Dr. Rabi Mohtar (TEES Professor, Texas A&M University) and Bassel Daher (Research Associate,Texas A&M University)

Bridging social and physical sciences to address interconnected water, energy, and food security challenges

Water, Energy, and Food securities are central to healthy, sustainable economies. Growing pressures to meet water, energy, and food demands, are driven by rising global populations, rapid urbanization, changing diets, and economic growth. These pressures are exacerbated by growing interdependencies between tightly interconnected resource systems. Unless we account for the interdependencies and the potential trade-offs as we plan for the future allocation of resources, we risk the unintended consequences likely to result from addressing a singular set of challenges and thereby creating others.

In the coming 15 years, 193 United Nations member states have committed to work toward achieving 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The goals include specific targets and local indicators to monitor progress on achieving the water, energy, and food securities, and others related to economic growth, sustainable consumption, health, climate, and more. The water-energy-food nexus research community has a unique opportunity to leverage the momentum toward these goals. As nations work toward achieving the 17 goals, they must also be aware of the extent of their interconnectedness and the potential of competition between them. In order to ensure arrival at the goals by 2030, without such unintended consequences, action plans must be developed that promote an understanding of the interconnections between physical resource systems and the players (stakeholders) involved using them. Achieving the SDGs requires innovative plans that cross multiple scales: plans that could benefit from a framework for a structured approach that promotes and guides interdisciplinary collaboration.

A consortium of partners, established in 2016, works to catalyze dialogue around the way in which we collectively address these challenges. The partners build on key milestones from Stockholm (WWW 2016), Cancun (WWC 2017), Brasilia (WWF 2018), Boston (ASABE, 2019) and New York (ICSD, 2019). In this special session they will share data, knowledge, tools, and lessons learned regarding how the SDGs are a system of interconnected goals and ways in which to optimize existing resources to achieve them.

This session focuses on unlocking new potential for addressing interconnected resource challenges through bridging accumulated experiences in modelling interconnections between resource systems with theories in social science and their application. Panel members use pilot implementation projects from several Water-Energy-Food Nexus hotspots globally. They will share lessons learned, regarding the modelling and quantitative analysis of interlinkages, as well as the use of relevant social theories in achieving potential convergence and increasing stakeholder understanding of the trade-offs associated with resource allocation and consumption. Shared research and experiences will contribute to our efforts to operationalize WEF nexus research moving forward. Documentation will include a white paper that summarizes the discussions and identifies the sessions conclusions and recommendations

The specific session goals are to:

  1. Share lessons learned from WEF nexus case studies across scales and sectors toward SDGs implementation;
  2. Discuss ways of improving scientific understanding, governance, and institutional structures for improved response to challenges of operationalizing water, energy, food nexus solutions; and
  3. Discuss ways in which dialogue that is focused on state-of-the-art technological, social, and policy interventions might be catylzed among multi-sectoral stakeholders and interdisciplinary research groups to address identification of research needs and priorities and the effective implementation of lessons learned.