Asia Pacific Water Forum / Asian Development Bank / Australian Water Partnership / Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations / International Water Management Institute

ASIA Focus- Challenging Nexus technologies, a force for good?

Wednesday 29 August | 11.00-12.30 | Room: FH 202
Peter Aiello 2016

Water, energy, land and ecosystems are essential for satisfying basic human needs and securing access to these resources in a sustainable manner is fundamental to the continued development that is required to meet all of the SDGs. Sector policies regarding water, energy, land and ecosystems have deep and consequential impacts on one another. Policies from one sector often entail serious but overlooked externalities for other sectors at local, national, regional and global scales. This is especially the case in the context of increasing resource scarcity and associated competition for these vital resources.

New technologies – including those in remote sensing, renewable energy, water treatment, hydropower, carbon mitigation, artificial intelligence and blockchain are seen by many as holding huge potential to help solve issues at the nexus – particularly when resources are insufficient to serve the needs of all sectors and users. Conversely, there are ways in which some of these technologies to worsen challenges at the nexus if proper governance and management mechanisms are not in place.

Gold standard events are committed to ensure the gender balance in speakers/panellists and young professional representation in the session.


11:00 – 11:15   

Introduction and the Australian Nexus Experience by Michael Wilson (DFAT)

11:15 – 11:20

Introduction to the Nexus – Louise Whiting (FAO)

11:20– 11:25   

Introduction to the debate - Ravi Narayanan 

11:25 – 12:00   

Debate - moderated by Ravi Narayanan

Debate Question: With regard to growing competition for often-limited resources at the water-energy-ecosystems-food nexus: Is technology a force for good?


For: Technology is a force for good

1. IMWI - Luna Bharati

2. ADB - Tom Panella

3. LEAD - Young Water Fellow - Nuha Anfares

4. CI - Vittoria Elliot

Against: Technology is not a force for good

5. USGS - Abigail Lynch

6. RMCG - Rob Rendell

7. Young Water Solutions - Antonella Vagliente 

8. DWFI - Peter McCornick

12:00 – 12:25

Audience interaction

12:25 – 12:30   

Closing Remarks by Ravi Narayanan


The Asian region, especially within the agricultural sector, is in the midst of two momentous and complex transitions: 1) Structural transformation linked to fast, if uneven, economic growth which often leaves agricultural incomes stagnant as other incomes grow, widening the income gap further each year, and 2) a movement to towards more sustainable practices that absolutely must occur to reverse the unmaintainable use and degradation of the region’s limited natural resource base. In order to address these challenges, this session approached the competing demands within the water energy food nexus by focusing in on the question, “Is technology a force for good, or a force to be calculated with caution. As growing competition for limited resources within the water-energy-ecosystems-food nexus begin to pressure society. The session ensured gender balanced teams of speakers, including the participation of two young professionals.

Debaters pointed out the positive and negative impacts of technologies. While some technologies can bring benefits and new opportunities for people and communities, others result in increased water scarcity by demanding an increasing amount of water, resulting in a conflict of interest among key stakeholders in the water cycle. The main debate addressed the balance between stakeholders for water demands, leading to questions regarding the regulatory and policy environment to appropriately address the negative impacts or tradeoffs as a result of the interconnected nature of the nexus, rather than the technologies themselves. It is necessary to focus on the processes and procedures to address nexus issues by the adoption of the appropriate technologies, policies and institutions based on an analysis of the social, economic and physical environment to achieve fit-for-purpose solutions on a case by case basis.

Overall, this session implied that win-win solutions are very limited. It is thus important to examine ways to minimize negative externalities by adopting and adapting technologies using information and participative approaches and consulting key stakeholders in order to appropriately address nexus issues.

Recommendations (e.g. policy/call-to-actions) 

  • Ensuring that negative and positive externalities are fully accounted for in an environmental impact analysis of technologies that interfere with any paradigm of the nexus.
  • Ensuring the use of spatial and temporal data to inform policy decision-making.
  • A longer term approach would involve promoting nexus risks in professional and educational training.