The water-energy-land nexus under climate change: from adaptation and mitigation case studies to services, products and implementation challenges.

11:15 Wednesday 29 May


Room S8


Roger Cremades (Germany) 1; Ebun Akinsete (Greece) 2; Phoebe Koundouri (Greece) 2; Louisa Jane Di Felice (Spain) 3; Maddalena Ripa (Spain) 3; Mario Giampietro (Spain) 3; Nicu Constantin Tudose (Romania) 4; Mirabella Marin (Romania) 4; Serban Octavian Davidescu (Romania) 4; Cezar Ungurean (Romania) 4; Hermine Mitter (Austria) 5; Katrin Karner (Austria) 5; Erwin Schmid (Austria) 5; Muhamad Bahri (Germany) 1; Sorin Cheval (Romania) 6; Floor Brouwer (Netherlands) 7; Maíté Fournier (France) 8; Georgios Avgerinopoulos (Sweden) 9; Eunice Ramos (Sweden) 9; Janez Susnik (Netherlands) 10; Anabel Sànchez (Spain) 11; Annelies Broekman (Spain) 11; Diana Pascual (Spain) 11; Iñaki Torres Cobiá n (Spain) 11; Eduard Pla (Spain) 11; Tabea Lissner (Germany) 12

1 - Climate Service Center Germany, GERICS; 2 - International Centre for Research on the Environment and the Economy (ICRE8); 3 - Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona; 4 - National Research and Development Institute in Forestry 'Marin Dracea' - INCDS, Romania; 5 - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna - BOKU; 6 - Henri Coandă" Air Force Academy; 7 - Wageningen Economic Research; 8 - ACTeon Environment Research & Consultancy, Office of Grenoble; 9 - Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm - KTH; 10 - IHE Delft Institute for Water Education; 11 - Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications - CREAF; 12 - Climate Analytics

The overall goals of the session are to provide cases with examples of transferring state-of-the-art understanding of the water-energy-land-food- nexus into the implementation of good practice in climate change adaptation, and to discuss challenges specific to diverse regional contexts while providing a global summarizing view and a debate about pending questions.

The topic of the session is the water-energy-land-food nexus and its implications for climate change adaptation at different scales (city, landscape, river basin, region, country, Europe) in a diversity of economic sectors and European (Romania, Spain, Austria, ƒ) and global areas under diverse climate impacts.

There is a number of pending questions about how to apply the nexus to case studies and how to best provide advice to policy makers, we will explore these and others related to resource security and how to implement the nexus in practice. This is crucial because decisions about adaptation to climate change involve potential trade-offs, e.g. in the agricultural and urban sectors these trade-offs might involve increased Greenhouse Gas emissions. The session will explore how to capture, and increase the potential to realise, co-benefits across societal objectives represented by the SDGs and the elements of the water-energy-land-food nexus under climate change, and how to avoid trade-offs that may compromise sustainable futures.

The session summarizes adaptation- and nexus-related content from the projects CLISWELN (ERA4CS), MAGIC (H2020), DAFNE (H2020), and SIM4NEXUS (H2020). The 8 contributions come from 26 authors from 12 European research institutions and consultancy businesses. The session has gender parity in the list presenting authors.

Target audience

Climate service providers, to see how we are using the nexus to provide robust climate services that take into account potential trade-offs. Water, land and energy policy makers and practitioners, to understand the opportunities for co-benefits under climate change. Integrated assessment scientists, to find regional and local instances that go beyond large-scale and aggregated approaches and provide sufficient detail for translating integrated science into products and services.

Proposed format for the session

8 short presentations of 10 minutes and final collective (speakers+public) discussion round about lessons learned and challenges ahead of 25 minutes, with suggested questions presented in a slide to motivate the debate.

Contributing Authors abstracts

1. Roger Cremades, GERICS (Germany) – Climate Services and the water-energy-land nexus: if we fail on one, we will fail on the other?

The Water-Energy-Land nexus require long-sighted solutions that prevent maladaptation pathways to deliver its promise of insights to improve policy-making. On the one hand, climate services lay the foundation to avoid myopia in nexus studies, while on the other hand, nexus studies prevent maladaptation in climate services. Robust policies require both capturing inter-disciplinary connections across sectors and scales. The risk of using the nexus without climate services data, is that climate change alters the balance between the elements of the nexus, and the risk of using climate services without the nexus, is that trying to adapt a sector to climate change could have unintended consequences across sectors and scales.

2. Hermine Mitter, BOKU (Austria) – Integrated assessment of agricultural adaptation to climate change in a water-constrained region in Austria

Climate information is underutilized in agricultural water management. A systematic analysis of climate change impacts and effective adaptation measures may facilitate the uptake of climate information. We aim at modeling interactions between hydrological processes, the groundwater status, and land use and management choices under consideration of different climate change scenarios. We have developed an integrated modeling framework consisting of climate change scenarios, a crop rotation model, a bio-physical process model, and a non-linear bottom-up economic land use optimization model that represents groundwater dynamics in a spatially explicit manner. Moreover, we calculate the energy demand for agricultural irrigation considering different technologies.

3. Ebun Akinsete, ICRE8 (Greece) – Water-energy-food issues in the Zambezi river basin

The Zambezi River Basin is the fourth largest basin of Africa. The core Water-energy-food issues within the Zambezi River Basin are trade-offs between energy production and irrigation for agriculture, trans-boundary governance under the Zambezi Watercourse Commission, and the reliance of the tourism sector (a major economic contributor) on the Zambezi waters. Currently, the water requirements in the Zambezi basin as a whole are less than the available resource. Nevertheless, possible conflicts between riparian countries in the Zambezi River Basin can arise due to the asymmetry between resource availability and population density in addition to the fact that the riparian countries have different investment potential and river basin shares, thus determining a different capability to access and use the available resource. At present the largest consumptive water uses (15-20% of the annual runoff) are located in the middle and lower part of the basin, and correspond to the evaporation losses from the reservoirs, irrigated agriculture and, though minor, water supply. In the future, expansion of irrigated agriculture, additional hydropower schemes and expanding tourism in important areas of biodiversity (Lake Malawi, floodplains of Barotseland, Busanga and Kafue in Zambia, Zambezi delta and the protected areas in northern Zimbabwe and the Luangwa Valley in eastern Zambia) could spark regional and international conflicts over water use.

4. Nicu Constantin Tudose, “Henri Coandă” Air Force Academy (Romania) – Identifying gaps on knowledge and methods in the intersection between climate services and nexus studies

Water, energy and land systems directly support the production of food and jointly create a nexus of high societal interest, essential for the sustainable development of human communities. While climate variability closely controls the water-energy-land-food (WELF) nexus, climate change challenges require unprecedented adaptation and mitigation strategies in order to assure food security for an increasing population. Climate services may support the climate-smart development of the WELF nexus by addressing the relationships between natural and anthropogenic variables (e.g. water resources, energy resources, land cover or land use) in an inter-disciplinary manner. Traditional climate services, such as in-situ data, statistics and maps are always useful, but new technologies and methodologies have emerged in the recent decades to support the development of climate-smart WELF nexus within the climate change context. This study reviews the climate services currently available for relevant applications, and evaluates the main gaps and challenges for the ongoing transition to climate-smart WELF nexus.

5. Tabea Lissner, Climate Analytics (Germany) – Building resilient energy services systems: synergies and trade-offs between mitigation, adaptation and achieving the SDGs

The presentation will explore synergies and trade-offs between energy security, mitigation and adaptation, particularly focusing on building resilient energy services systems under SDG 7. Energy systems must be designed in line with climate risks so infrastructure can remain resilient in face of extreme weather conditions, withholding the long-term consolidation of energy goals. In doing so, the achievement of climate-resilient energy systems can have co-benefits to other SDGs. These help to provide a stronger adaptive capacity for local and national societal metabolisms. Due to uncertainty on mitigation action, further adaptation must be put in place, as climate impacts are likely to alter future availability of funds and flows in the nexus between water-energy-agriculture, affecting the stability and effectiveness of energy systems and the complex interplay across different SDGs.

6. Maddalena Ripa, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain) – A biophysical view of pathways to decarbonisation

Shifting from a fossil to a renewable energy system requires radical changes in infrastructure. This leads to different patterns of nexus elements (such as water, land and GHG emissions) associated to different pathways, depending on their material requirements and organisation. Focusing on GHG emissions, we discuss the implications of a renewable electricity transformation in the EU.

7. Mirabella Marin, INCDS (Romania) – Forest management to decrease energy consumption for urban water supply in a mixed groundwater and surface water system

In this study the Tărlung river basin was analyzed, located in a mountainous area in the center of Romania. Inside the river basin there is the Săcele Reservoir, which represents the main source of water for Brașov Metropolitan Area, providing about 90% of the water demand. In order to estimate the availability of water in the river basin for the following decades, an integrated hydrological model (SWAT) was used in the context of two regional climatic scenarios and taking into account 9 different combinations between land uses and forest management scenarios. The available water in the river basin along with the urban water consumption, manifested by the dynamics of water consumption for the needs of the population and other users, will allow us to establish the water supply from additional sources implying groundwater pumping and, implicitly, the extra energy consumption for processing it. Additional energy consumption for groundwater is reflected in additional GHG emissions.

8. Floor Brouwer, Wageningen Economic Research (the Netherlands) – The Nexus concept for a resource efficient Europe; co-benefits of climate mitigation and adaptation measures

Land, food, energy, water and climate are interconnected, comprising a coherent system (the ‘Nexus’), and dominated by complexity and feedback. Such an integrated approach of the Nexus is critical to secure the efficient and sustainable use of resources. The Nexus concept is a systematic process of scientific inquiry explicitly focusing on bio-physical, socio-economic and policy interactions (synergies and trade-offs) across sectors, with end goal of sustainable and integrated management of natural resources.

9. Muhamad Bahri, GERICS (Germany): The system dynamics of the nexus in the tourism sector

We apply a system dynamics approach in understanding the nexus element interdependencies through a case study in the Marina Baixa county, Spain. We assess the interdependencies among energy, water and land, revealing a connection between land use planning, water consumption and energy consumption. Low- and high-density areas and accommodation types are decisive to the water demand in the Marina Baixa touristic hub. We use an integrated systems model of urban water supply, which aims to reproduce patters in the current system, so that it can be used later to analyse the impact of climate change and co-created future scenarios. The historical data is consistently well reproduced. System dynamics approach is a promising method to investigate the interdependencies of the nexus elements in supporting sustainable development.

10. Elisabeth Viktor, GERICS (Germany): The GERICS Regional Modelling Toolkit: Towards an integrative modelling approach for science-based decisions to create cross-sectoral, regional climate adaptation

This contribution will provide a first look at the new project SYnAPTIC at GERICS. The goal of SYnAPTIC is to strengthen the resilience of certain elements of critical infrastructures in urban areas with respect to climate change, focusing on cascading effects. Three different sectors (energy, water, transport) and climate services will be connected through knowledge integration with a specific focus on the users’ perspective and needs. The complex interlinkages at the nexus of the infrastructure networks for energy, water and transport with the impact of climate change will be represented by applying a systems dynamics approach. This will include state-of-the-art projected future climate change information where relevant and on appropriate scales. At the same time, human influences and decision-making are integrated using participative modelling techniques. To this end, experts from all three sectors will be interviewed, building the foundation for the system model. The final aim is to provide a quantitative systems dynamics model that supports users to identify leverage points for effective climate change adaptation pathways considering potential cascading effects induced by climate change. SYnAPTIC serves as a first prototypical application of the GERICS Regional Modelling Toolkit using parts of the metropolitan area of Hamburg as a test region.