How should natural resource managers balance the requirements of farmers, domestic and industrial energy consumers, and water users?
This challenge is usually referred to as the Water-Energy-Food nexus.
In its simplest form, the nexus approach merely advocates a more holistic natural resource management. However, such an all-encompassing methodology is fraught with complexity. Hard trade-offs need to be made.
Traditionally, resources like water and energy have been managed in isolation. Utilities like water and power have almost always been run as separate entities, reinforcing the notion that they are unconnected. The interests of academics, government officials and management professionals rarely bridged the energy and agricultural sectors.
However, it has become increasingly clear that water, energy and food supply cannot be effectively and sustainably managed unless the complex relationship between them is fully recognized. They are intimately intertwined and the availability of one invariably affects the availability of the others. Farming and energy, for instance, are closely connected. Food requires solar energy to grow. Power is needed to pump irrigation water. Oil is used to produce fertilizer. New biofuel crops consume water, and require land, but can be used to generate energy.
The situation is both multifaceted and diverse. Each geographic region will exhibit differing relationships between the three entities depending on local resources, political priorities and infrastructure development.