Challenge: Water-Energy-Food Nexus

Energy, water, and food are key resources for societies all around the world, and complex interdependencies exist among these systems.  This has been coined the “water-energy-food nexus.”  At its simplest, this can be broken down into the dependencies shown in the figure.

For instance, “energy for water” describes energy utilization for water management, treatment, desalination, distribution, and heating, and “water for energy” describes water utilization for cooling thermoelectric power plants, hydraulic fracturing, geothermal energy, enhanced oil recovery, biomass, and hydropower.

There are also instances of interaction between all three resources. For example:

·      Wastewater treatment plants are a major user of energy, but may also be a source of recovered “resources” such as nutrients that can be re-used as agricultural fertilizer

·      Some plant-based, water-dependent biofuels, used primarily as transportation fuels, are currently produced from corn and soy crops.

·      Sustainable design of hydropower plants, which use water to generate electricity, involves ecosystem planning that can include surrounding crops and upstream/downstream fish and other wildlife.

·      Due to the interdependent and embedded nature of these resources (e.g. about one-third of food produced in the United States is wasted each year, which means that the water and energy used to produce that food is wasted as well), efficiency measures for a single resource end up conserving across the board. 

The Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) want to hear your ideas (barriers and/or solutions) on the water-energy-food nexus. 

Some Agency Resources:

·      National Science Foundation (NSF) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program on Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems (INFEWS)

·      USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s food waste reduction goals and the U.S. Food Waste Challenge

·      Department of Energy (DOE) report on The Energy-Water Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities

Have something to submit to the challenge? Click here! This challenge ends June 27th! 

Figure: Food-Energy-Water Nexus

More National Day Challenges

We've prepared challenges focusing on digital government and helping out in your community. Jump in and start helping where you can. After National Day, we'll package everything together into a single document that tells the story of digital government services in America.