CEDARE participated in the 1st Nexus Roundtable in the MENA and Wider Mediterranean, in Beirut,November 26-28, 2018. Khaled AbuZeid, CEDARE Water Director, talked about the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus in the Arab Region. He explained how Food Security is linked to Water Security and Energy Security. Fossil Groundwater is exploited using fossil fuels, where 10 out of 22 Arab Countries have exceeded the renewable freshwater sustainability threshold, and 18 out of the 22 Arab countries are below the water scarcity limit of 1000 m3/person/year. He highlighted the importance of the new approach in selecting the appropriate type of water resource for the appropriate use at the appropriate geographic location within the country.
He pointed out that the decisions that the decisions that are made today in each sector in isolation from the other will affect the hard and costly decisions that may need to be taken in the future. He introduced the Transboundary Dimension of the WEF nexus and how uncoordinated unilateral decisions on hydropower Energy and irrigated agriculture Food production projects upstream in a transboundary river basin, could have a negative effect on Water, hydropower Energy, and Food production in downstream countries. He emphasized the need to capitalize on rainfed agriculture (when possible) using “green” water because it uses less Energy than irrigated agriculture which requires pumping blue “water”. He also highlighted the importance of looking at the overall water efficiency rather than the on-farm water use efficiency, because with a nexus approach it might show that recycling agriculture drainage from surface irrigation uses less Energy than converting to pressurized irrigation systems, saving water and energy at the same time. He added that Groundwater pumping using solar energy saves on costs of fossil fuel but may lead to over pumping of water. He alluded to the role that virtual water trade can play in water, food, and energy security especially in the Arab Countries which are importing about 288 Billion Cubic Meters (BCM) of virtual water embedded in the food they are importing, saving on water and energy if they would have otherwise targeted achieving “Food Self Sufficiency”. In this context, he called for a strategic balance of “Food Security”, “Partial Food Self Sufficiency”, and “Optimized Virtual Water Trade”. He finally noted that food wastage in harvesting, transportation, and at the table, ranges from 20% to 55℅, amounting in the region to about 50 million tons per year, which translates to about 80 BCM/year. “Reducing food wastage could also reduce water and energy wastage”, he concluded.