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Paper

Water-Energy-Food Nexus in India

A Critical Review

Nazar Kholod, Meredydd Evans, Zarrar Khan, Mohamad Hejazi and Vaibhav Chaturvedi
December 2021 | Food, Land and Water

Suggested citation: Kholod, Nazar, Meredydd Evans, Zarrar Khan, Mohamad Hejazi and Vaibhav Chaturvedi. 2022. Greening India's Workforce: Gearing Up for Expansion of Solar and Wind Power in India. Energy and Climate Change, Volume 2. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.egycc.2021.100060

Overview

This paper identifies the most water-stressed areas in India throughout 2050 along with its energy needs and land use. It reviews more than 100 studies to assess the evolution of competing demands for water, energy and food in India and identifies research gaps in published water-energy-food nexus research. Further, the paper reveals that most studies are not designed to capture the interaction between multiple dimensions, thereby underestimating the demand for water and water stress in the country.

Key Highlights

  • Agriculture, cities, and industry account for the largest changes in water withdrawals through 2050. Agriculture, as the far largest sector of water demand, will be specifically susceptive to climate change effects.
  • Water scarcity will grow dramatically across India through 2050 compared with today, but the greatest changes occur in the northwest and central-southern India.
  • Most of the papers on water-for-electricity in India that were reviewed focused on India-wide problems in the power sector without geospatial detail. Some states with large power generation capacity and high-water stress are not sufficiently analysed in the literature.
  • Research conducted on the energy-water nexus does not provide adequate representation to some states that will experience severe water stress. For example, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Karnataka are among the largest agricultural producers with severe water scarcity, but the link between energy and water is not sufficiently analysed in the academic literature.
  • There is a critical need for India to develop comprehensive studies of various special and temporal resolutions focusing on all components of the water, energy and food nexus.

Key Recommendations

  • Develop a comprehensive methodological approach that can holistically analyse the nexus between water, energy and land use.
  • Analyse scenarios related to regional impacts of development and climate change to better understand the future uncertainties related to various dimensions of water-energy-food nexus. Most studies to date only look at historical data.
  • Focus on water-stressed regions. The water-energy-food nexus in water-stressed regions is an important research gap and should be accorded a higher priority at least in the near future.
  • Collect and share more robust India-specific data. India-specific data would be important for deriving exhaustive conclusions and insights about the impacts of climate change on the water-energy-food nexus.
Agriculture, cities, and industry account for the largest changes in water withdrawals through 2050. Agriculture, as the far largest sector of water demand, will be specifically susceptive to climate change effects.

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