The Nexus in Action

While the food, water and energy nexus may be a new concept for many of us, there are numerous examples of individuals, businesses and governments that are taking a nexus approach. Here are just four examples, taken from our "Know the Nexus" issue paper, of people and organizations who, because they strongly believe in sustainability, are mindful of how these three systems interact and the benefits to be achieved. Click on their names to get in-depth interviews and learn more about what steps they take to put "The Nexus in Action."

Cindy Ridenour, owner of Meadow Maid Foods, on how her family farm minimizes fossil fuel inputs, such as operating farm equipment for hay production, by grazing beef cattle:

Well, we’re 100 percent grass-fed and our ranch is self-contained, in a sense...So we have a lower stocking density than typical ranches. What we do is let them graze all summer, and we stockpile feed for the winter and they eat that during the winter. And we do bring in some hay from a local ranch, about fifteen miles from us. And that hay that we bring in, for emergency supplies through the winter is the only feed that involves fossil fuel input. These animals live their entire life on the farm, and we estimate that their hay is probably just a couple percent of their total feed over their lifetime. And that’s the only fossil fuel input in these animals, from birth until the time we take them to slaughter.

San Antonio Water System (SAWS) and CPS Energy, on the interdependent relationship between water and energy:

Recognizing the water-energy nexus, or the critical, mutually dependent relationship between the two resources, allows San Antonio to manage the two in tandem to help maintain reliable and sustainable supplies of both energy and water...CPS Energy has used recycled water since 1963 to cool its power plants. SAWS provides up to 50,000 acre-feet of highly-treated recycled water per year for CPS Energy, ensuring that the utility has the water needed to generate electricity for the foreseeable future while providing sufficient water flows for the downstream waterways.

Will Allen, founder of Growing Power, on how his integrated approach to urban agriculture - one that includes vermiculture, aquaponic and energy production - is part of age-old continuum of agricultural lessons and practice:

And I like to put my own little twist on things because none of the stuff that we’re doing is new. We’ve always grown food, we’ve always composted, and we’ve always done aquaponics since ancient times. You can pick up books that show aquaponics in different countries done differently, where they take water out of the mountains and as it passes down the mountain, they dig ponds and then they grow fish in the ponds and the water passes through a series of ponds and it goes out to the valley to water the plants. So there are all kinds of different things that people have been doing in a natural way for so many years, only we’re taking those natural concepts and moving it into a building and doing the same thing. So as it goes with aquaponics or even some of the vegetables that we grow inside buildings.

Wayne Koeckeritz, owner of Food Waste Disposal, LLC, on the importance of looking at food waste not as garbage but as a valuable resource:

What I can say is, "Look, within this corn or tomato or whatever it is, there's a number of BTUs that were used to produce it. Let's at least capture some of those resources and that energy and take that and put it back in rather than being incredibly wasteful with it."

I think two-thirds of all water consumption is for industrial agriculture. It’s staggering, those numbers are staggering. So again, if we're expending those resources, and what can we do on the back end to at least capture those and try to reuse them. So that’s really, I think, my focus is - I know there is a lot of advocacy and a lot of groups that are working on the front end of this issue, and trying to figure out ways to use less water and less fuel and all of that. Like I said, that’s not where I'm at right now. I'm on the backside of that. What can we do to at least sort of respect all of the energy and resources that went into producing the food?