The Water-Energy-Food Nexus Index: A Tool for Integrated Resource Management and Sustainable Development


The Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus has, in the past decade, gained prominence as an approach for assessing integrated resource management. One challenge related to the WEF nexus approach is how to represent and monitor it since a system that includes water-, energy-and food-related parameters is complex. Not only are these resources quantified utilizing different units, but they vary both spatially and temporally. This paper presents a national-level composite indicator that has been established for 170 countries, utilizing the methodology developed by the Joint Research Centre: Competence Centre on Composite Indicators and Scoreboards. Following an assessment of 87 globally applicable water-, energy-and food-related indicators, 21 were selected to constitute the WEF Nexus Index. This index is made up of three equally weighted pillars representing the three constituent resource sectors, and six sub-pillars. A core element in the development of this index is equitable access to resources, which is characterized by each resource sector’s ‘access’ sub-pillar. The WEF Nexus Index provides a quantitative perspective and offers a lens for evaluating trade-offs to be considered in the pursuit of sustainable development. To this end, it is intended for assessing national progress relating to integrated resource management as well as supporting decision making and policy development. The relevance and usefulness of the outcomes are demonstrated through an assessment of South Africa. The development of the WEF Nexus Index has demonstrated that no country is undertaking integrated resource management flawlessly. Every nation has the potential for improvement; which is evidenced by, for example, the top-ranking country for the index needing to reduce CO2emissions. Neither the composite indicator nor the WEF nexus approach is, however, the panacea that will solve all the significant development or environmental challenges facing the global society. It can, however, contribute to integrated resource management and is complementary to the Sustainable Development Goals. It should ideally be utilized as an entry point into the underlying pillars, sub-pillars and indicators, in parallel with other qualitative and quantitative studies.

Copyright by: Simpson, G., Jewitt, G., Becker, W., Badenhorst, J., Neves, A., Rovira, P., & Pascual, V. (2020, September 10). The Water-Energy-Food Nexus Index: A Tool for Integrated Resource Management and Sustainable Development.

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