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Structuring an integrated water-energy-food nexus assessment of a local wind energy desalination system for irrigation

Serrano-Tovar, Tarik; Peñate Suárez, Baltasar; Musicki, Ana; de la Fuente Bencomo, Juan A.; Cabello, Violeta; Giampietro, Mario

Desalination is increasingly put forward as a sustainable local solution to water scarcity in combination with the exploitation of renewable energy sources. However, the complexity of the resource nexus entails the unavoidable existence of pros and cons across its various dimensions that can only be assessed at different scales of analysis. In turn, these pros and cons entail different winners and losers among the different social actors linked through the nexus. To address these challenges, a novel approach to resource nexus assessment is put forward, based on multi-scale integrated analysis of societal and ecosystem metabolism (MuSIASEM) and recognizing the resource nexus as a wicked problem. The integrated representation identifies the existence of biophysical constraints determined by processes both under human control (in the technosphere) and beyond human control (in the biosphere). The approach is illustrated with a local case study of desalination in the Canary Islands, Spain. The material presented has been generated in the context of the project “Moving towards adaptive governance in complexity: Informing nexus security” (MAGIC) for use in participatory processes of co-production of knowledge claims about desalination, a prerequisite for informed policy deliberation.

This research was supported by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 689669 (MAGIC). The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) has received financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, through the "María de Maeztu" program for Units of Excellence (MDM-2015-0552). This work reflects the authors' view only; the funding agencies are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
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