The combination of the struggle for resources, such as the water-energy-food security nexus, is a source of potential conflict in numerous regions of the world.
The majority of water resources (more than 70%) are used for agriculture, industrial and residential uses, and for power generation. Many need to retain water in their dams and reservoirs to serve the needs of agriculture and also to produce electricity.
Other regions, rich in hydrocarbons, need water as part of the energy production process, and this in turn often results in heavy water pollution. All these competing needs for water from the energy and agriculture sectors can create conflicting situations. As a consequence, disputes over trans-boundary water flows, combined with energy, have become more heated in the last years.
Furthermore, climate change will have an increasing impact. Climate change scenarios are expected to have effects on both amount and water availability pattern throughout the year. This is exacerbated by the increasing demand for water due to population and economic growth, higher temperatures and a considerable decrease in precipitation.
These challenges have to and can be addressed through ensuring a better management of linked resources. One example is to reconcile the competing needs of water for energy and water for agriculture while securing needs for underpinning ecosystems. This needs to be done in an integrated, transboundary and equitable manner, and enhancing cooperation across borders.
Especially in the context of the holistic approach adopted by the post-2015 agenda, the EU will need to have goals and targets in specific areas, while at the same time ensuring that it does not create a “set of silos” of completely separate goals. The EU has to be able to deal with interactions that address complementary and competing needs in a set of SDGs only.