The Water Food Energy Nexus: An Animation

We hear you. The word “nexus” isn’t exactly the most compelling term, even if it does nicely sum up the interconnections between all of the systems – food, water and energy – that keep our modern world running. But the nice people at The Guardian and, interestingly, SAB Miller (beer brewingdoes use a lot water, of course) have created an animated explanation of the nexus that presents a compelling case as to why we should all be paying a  lot more attention.

For example, worldwide there are 1.1 billion people living without clean drinking water, 1.3 billion without electricity and over 1 billion are hungry.  All three of those challenges are linked, and a growing population makes them even more crucial to address.  After highlighting some key nexus collisions – the enormous amounts of energy required to treat and move water, the effects of biofuel production on water and food supplies – the narrator, whose English accent make the dire warnings sound rather charming, states: “Failing to treat water, energy and food as a nexus leads to questionable decisions.”


We do have a few quibbles with the video. First, the four-minute animation states that, because we cannot create or grow more of it, water security is the key part of the nexus.  While it’s true that we can survive without electricity but not without water, considering how much energy goes into moving and treating water  let’s not confuse an already complex concept by putting one concern ahead of another. Second, given the growing awareness of how dependent big coal, gas and nuclear power plants are on water supplies, it would have been nice to see a little more attention paid to that part of the nexus.  And finally, some of the solutions presented briefly at the end are great (reduced food waste, wind power) while others are highly questionable (energy from agricultural waste and improved crop productivity sounds suspiciously geared towards industrial agriculture which is most definitely not nexus-friendly).

That said, it’s great to see the business world talking seriously about nexus thinking.  And hey, if this animation catches on we promise to start reporting on the nexus with our best Cockney accents.