Thinking about Water Differently: Managing the Water-Food-Energy Nexus

Publication | September 2013

Water must be recognized as an economic as well as a social good, as water security is crucial to the future of people, communities and nations across Asia and the Pacific region.

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The water-food-energy nexus is emerging as a critical issue in Asia and the Pacific. It is clear that solutions must be found to assure water security, thereby eliminating the immediate - and increasing - risk to food security, energy security, and economic growth and stability: water must be recognized as an economic as well as a social good. Governments need to be encouraged to think differently about water, take the longer-term view, and be mindful of the strategic and economic value of this limited resource.

This publication is the result of a scoping study initiated by the Asian Development Bank to better understand the issues associated with the water-food-energy nexus in Asia and the Pacific. It provides high-level guidance on the choices available to address the region's water security issues.

ADB and water

Some strategic thrusts likely to be promoted by ADB in the water sector include the following:

  1. Reforming water governance. Through advocacy at global, regional, and national levels, demonstrate convincingly to developing members the critical need to manage water differently, assigning its strategic and vital value in allocation and trade-offs, and to amend governance structures and procedures accordingly;
  2. Data and information. Support developing members in generating reliable data on the availability and behavior of water resources, in particular, groundwater. Make information on all aspects of water security accessible and place them into the public domain, including possible measures to deal with water scarcity;
  3. Resource protection. Support developing members in more effective reduction of wastewater and other waste discharging into freshwater supplies through regulation, investment, and innovation;
  4. Water for food. Stimulate research into improving the use of water in agriculture, increasing food production on the same area of land, and using less water; and
  5. Increasing storage. Promote increases in strategic storage, including aquifer recharge, in response to uncertainties in supply, aggravated by climate change.


  • Executive Summary
  • Background
  • Water Security in the Face of Water Scarcity
  • The Water-Food-Energy Nexus
  • New Water Accounting
  • Emerging Opportunities
  • The Potential Response
  • References

Additional Details

  • Agriculture and natural resources
  • Agricultural and food productivity
  • Energy
  • Water
  • Water Resource Management
  • Water sector development
  • RPT125184
  • 978-92-9254-252-8 (Print)
  • 978-92-9254-253-5 (Web)

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