Agricultural industrialization and manufacturing have long been the focus of conservation methodologies for water and energy albeit from from differing approaches.
Global population estimates predict 10 million of us will be in the crux of the grand nexus of energy-food-water-climate by the year 2050 (Foodie and Everyman‘s article though insightful bears a narrow focus).Regardless of major advances in science and technology within the last centuries, the basic sustenance needs for food and water have not been met. The near future presents a bleak outcome if efforts are not exponentially increased. Agricultural industrialization in the next decades faces large sustainability issues when the inextricable linked impact at the water-energy interdependency known as energy-water nexus is viewed. By 2025 Africa and most of Asia-central will be severely caught in this nexus. That is almost half the world’s population. Present view of the scarcity of potable water in some of those regions is a stark indicator of what’s to come. In the US alone , two centuries of industrialization has severely impacted natural resources of water, land, energy and the atmosphere.
Although the challenges of the ‘grand nexus’ have been researched and probed in various subsets i.e. food-water, food – energy, energy-climate and trade, food, climate the energy-water subset is only recently been focused on and theorized as the natural inter-dependencies expose themselves within sustainability initiatives. For instance Colorado, with the assistance of the National Center for Atmospheric research is presently implementing climate adaptation mitigation strategies as a method of research and policy for it’s front range cities. Although analysis and data sets are still being generated the degree of impact is conceptualized as a great threat to global sustainability efforts.
As a highlight, the state of California utilizes 20% of it’s energy consumption total to manage water processes (pumping, treating and filtering as well as transport). Note this is still the #1 ranked US state for renewable energy generation. Thus this nexus has been shown to present a terribly great challenge within urban water production and management even in developed countries.
Regardless of the approach to sustainable production and consumption energy systems must achieve reliable, greenhouse gas reducing energy whilst sustainable utilising the strained water resource. Further impact of this nexus can intuitively be accessed when water itself (as it should be considering the inextricable linkage) is viewed as the renewable resource for demand supplementation through hydro-electrical generation. Thermo-electrical processes also further highlight this crux when the quantities of cooling water for these processes are considered. For sure nuclear energy generation needs no other nemesis but it also lies in the crux of this nexus.
In the late 80’s RRPI engineering researchers (early U.N global warming studies within the Center for Energy and Urban Environment(CEUE now CEE) had pegged this nexus as a point presenting a crux to holistic energy conservation research.
Similarly, in Minneapolis, the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) was established by the Minnesota Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, then a Trade Policy Analyst, to link local agricultural (farming) issues with national and global conversations at the WTO and with regards to GATT assertions from the World Farmers Trade Conference in Geneva.
(I have little appreciation for the old GATT which chose my scorpionic birthday in 2006 to indicate a new approach to slavery is the solution to the human toll of industrialization and trade in Africa. Such wanton rhetoric was what pre-WWII human eugenics study was predicated on by the Us and Germany. New direction for WTO is being declared as a post disbanding outlook, to cater more for the poor…(hopefully not in any slavish paradigm)
By the 90’s as CUEUE deliberated on these and other energy conservation and Global Warming issues IATP, in concert with The Center for Agriculture and Environment , Netherlands (CLM) began tracking issues of agriculture’s environmental impact.
Today with great oversight from Jim Harkness, IATP’s executive director, IATP and RRPI are collaborating ( with IATP’s insertion of Ladonna Redmond) with other stakeholders on local Food Justice, Environmental and Energy Justice issues in relation to a regional, national and global perspective. RRPI intends to direct this conversation to link the energy-water nexus in the super conserving sustainable agriculture (when inclusive of efficient renewable energy generation) towards organic aquaponic culture