Better together: the need for cross-sectoral collaboration
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With the combined effects of growing population, rising incomes and expanding cities, demand for water will continue to grow, while in many regions water availability is becoming more uncertain. The pressure will be further exacerbated by climate change, which will strongly affect the EU’s neighbouring regions, such as Africa and the Middle East. This increasing water stress will intensify competition between water users. A lack or an excess of water may undermine the functioning of the energy and food production sectors, with societal and economic effects. Energy and water are inextricably linked: we need ‘water for energy’ for cooling, storage, biofuels, hydropower, fracking etc., and we need ‘energy for water’ to pump, treat and desalinate. Without energy and water, we cannot satisfy basic human needs, produce food for a rapidly growing population and achieve economic growth. Producing more crops per drop to meet present and future food demands means developing new water governance approaches. At the same time, addressing the water needs of the energy and agriculture sectors should not have an unduly negative effect on natural ecosystems that provide essential services, such as fish provisioning, flood protection, erosion prevention, pollination, and indeed water to users. These interactions have been so far largely underappreciated. Solutions need to focus on efficient and equitable allocation of water across all sectors, recognising at the same time that they should be tailored to the socio-economic and ecological specificities of a region. More integrated approaches are needed to take into account the interactions between water, energy and agriculture as well as household demand.
Cross-sectoral partnership is a key feature of Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development . The integration of cross-sectoral policies has also received expanding attention in the European Union strategies. The impact assessment accompanying the Communication, Clean Energy For All Europeans , emphasizes that the availability of water resources, in particular for hydropower, and extreme weather events are likely to affect the power supply in various ways, e.g. thermal generation threatened by a lack of cooling water
The EU Commissioners for agriculture and the environment have launched a Task Force on Water and Agriculture that is intended to develop a longterm transition to sustainability for EU agriculture with regard to water issues . Building on early lessons learnt from energy, water and food security in developing countries, the Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) has started the Nexus Regional Dialogue Programme to develop policy recommendations and action plans for future investments in Africa, LatinAmerica, Central Asia and the EU neighbourhood.
JRC delivering WEFE-Nexus assessments and solutions
In this context, the goal of the JRC WEFE-Nexus project is to help, in a systemic way, the design and implementation of European policies and strategies that are dependent on water in order to identify areas for EU policy convergence, coordination and integration. By combining expertise and data from across the JRC, the WEFE-Nexus project provides support to several Commission DGs, informing crosssectoral policymaking on how to improve the resilience of water-using sectors such as energy, agriculture and ecosystems. The specific objectives that will achieve the overall goal of the project are:
- Analysis of the most significant WEFE interdependencies by testing strategies, policy options and technological solutions under different socio-economic scenarios for Europe and beyond. The project will help implement several EU policies (e.g. the Common Agricultural Policy, the Water Framework Directive, the Energy Union and the EU Development Policy) as well as initiatives and agreements at international level (e.g. the Sustainable Development Goals and the Union for the Mediterranean).
- Evaluation of the cross-sectoral impacts of changing availability of water due to climate change, land use, urbanisation, demography in Europe and geographical areas of strategic interest for the EU (Africa and the EU’s closest eastern and southern neighbours) by using an integrated approach, including the socio-economic dimension, to improve policy coherence, develop synergies and negotiate trade-offs.
- Delivery of country and regional scale reports, outlooks on anomalies in water availability, a toolbox for scenario-based decision-making, and science policy briefs connecting the project’s outcomes to the policy process.
With an implementation plan until mid-2020, research is clustered around a number of Work Packages, each of them centred on a sub-set of thematic research questions, methods and tools. WEFE-Energy focuses on the assessment of the implications of water resource availability on power system economics and operations, mapping of energy demand by the water services and the water usage of energy technologies. WEFEAgriculture gathers activities such as the integration of agro-economic and water models, impacts of irrigation and fertilization scenarios on crop water productivity, water quality and ecosystems, and management of the Knowledge Hub on Water and Agriculture. H2OCities will build indicators of urban water trends and pressures and coordinate the preparation of a report on WEFE best practices in the Mediterranean region. WEFE4Dev will analyse trade-offs and propose solutions (intervention projects) with a focus on continental Africa, and diagnostic overviews on major African trans-boundary river basins. WEFE 2030 will analyse trends in multisectoral planning of water demand and supply in the next decades, including estimations of pathways towards climate change adaptation.
While Work Packages drive work methodologically, WEFE-Nexus is characterised by high-level deliverables that require collaborative inputs for an analysis going beyond individual sectors, encompassing different sectors at once. The challenge is to build on sectorspecific expertise and models from across the JRC and adapt them in order to be able to focus on tradeoffs and synergies and identify interlinkages between development targets. To this end, multi-disciplinary competences have been pooled together from within five thematic JRC Directorates. For example, an assessment of hydropower as a factor of flexibility in power generation calls for an estimation of fresh water demands from the EU energy sector up to 2050. By combining hydrological and power system models, an analysis of the impact of projected changes in precipitation, temperature and discharge on hydropower generation has been carried out based on the latest EU Energy Reference Scenario . Greece and the Iberian Peninsula have been selected as case studies, taking into account future water demand .
The harvesting of explicit and tacit knowledge from different sources within the Commission and the international scientific community will be central to the WEFE-Nexus project. This will permit a better understanding of the demand for knowledge from policymakers and stakeholders, and integrate the various requests in a coherent research framework, for a coordinated JRC delivery of cross-sectoral WEFENexus assessments and solutions.
 EC Staff Working Document (2016) 410 final: Impact Assessment.
 EC Staff Working Document (2017) 153: Agriculture and Sustainable Water Management in the EU.
 See R. Fernández-Blanco, K. Kavvadias, and I. Hidalgo Gonzalez, ‘Quantifying the water-power linkage on hydrothermal power systems: A Greek case study,’ Applied Energy, vol. 203, pp. 240– 253; and Fernandez Blanco Carramolino, R., Kavvadias, K., Adamovic, M., Bisselink, B., de Roo, A., Hidalgo Gonzalez, I., The water-power nexus of the Iberian Peninsula power system: WATERFLEX project, EUR 29127 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2017, ISBN 978-92-79-80209-6, doi:10.2760/739963, JRC109944