The Global Food-Energy-Water Nexus

Paolo D'Odorico*, Kyle Frankel Davis, Lorenzo Rosa, Joel A. Carr, Davide Chiarelli, Jampel Dell'Angelo, Jessica Gephart, Graham K. MacDonald, David A. Seekell, Samir Suweis, Maria Cristina Rulli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Water availability is a major factor constraining humanity's ability to meet the future food and energy needs of a growing and increasingly affluent human population. Water plays an important role in the production of energy, including renewable energy sources and the extraction of unconventional fossil fuels that are expected to become important players in future energy security. The emergent competition for water between the food and energy systems is increasingly recognized in the concept of the “food-energy-water nexus.” The nexus between food and water is made even more complex by the globalization of agriculture and rapid growth in food trade, which results in a massive virtual transfer of water among regions and plays an important role in the food and water security of some regions. This review explores multiple components of the food-energy-water nexus and highlights possible approaches that could be used to meet food and energy security with the limited renewable water resources of the planet. Despite clear tensions inherent in meeting the growing and changing demand for food and energy in the 21st century, the inherent linkages among food, water, and energy systems can offer an opportunity for synergistic strategies aimed at resilient food, water, and energy security, such as the circular economy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)456-531
Number of pages76
JournalReviews of Geophysics
Issue number3
Early online date20 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • Circular Economy
  • FEW Nexus
  • Food Security
  • Food-water nexus
  • Water Security
  • Water Sustainability


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