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Insights from “The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: Which way? Right way?” workshop

By: Alberta WaterPortal Society

With the support of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, this summer the Alberta WaterPortal held a workshop entitled “The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: Which way? Right way?”. The Water-Energy-Food Nexus is about recognizing and working cooperatively across multiple essential water uses. These uses include water for producing food, water for producing energy, and water for basic human necessities. When water resources are limited there are tradeoffs between these uses. “The Nexus” has become the defining term for understanding the interconnections between water, energy, and food.

It is critical to engage a broad range of stakeholders when discussing the Nexus because at its core the Nexus is about cooperation and sharing across different sectors. The workshop brought together stakeholders from academia, water management, food, energy and other sectors for a discussion on how to educate and inform Albertans about the Nexus. The workshop gathered valuable feedback and inspiring ideas for the WaterPortal team to change the existing online simulator tool and educational materials. It also identified what is needed to complete the ‘picture’ and how to make the online material more engaging.

The workshop was structured around three collaborative activity sessions and participants were asked to mix themselves up among the tables between each activity. This was to ensure participants all heard a variety of each other’s perspectives throughout the day. The activities asked the table groups to create an example of how to represent the Nexus visually, to identify all the information and data that would be helpful to include about the Nexus, and to explore the online simulator tool that has been created and provide feedback.

  

Figure 1: Results from participants’ creativity in first activity       Figure 2: Results from participants’ creativity in second activity

The following key points emerged as the workshop identified the stakeholders’ concerns and opportunities to improve the representation of the Nexus:

  • Communities should be represented at the centre of the Nexus
  • The Nexus is complex and the balance between water uses will always be changing
  • There are multiple scales of understanding and decisions to convey (individual, community, provincial level Nexus)
  • Understanding the Nexus demands more Alberta-centred data
  • The online simulator tool needs to be made more engaging

The feedback and suggestions are now being used to direct the WaterPortal team in the next steps of the year-long Nexus project.

The Alberta WaterPortal would like to thank the Alberta Real Estate Foundation and Alberta Innovates for supporting the Alberta Nexus project, and the University of Calgary – Haskayne School of Business for providing a venue for the workshop. Finally, we would like to thank the participants for the fruitful discussion and pleasant atmosphere during the workshop.