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The National Public Opinion Project on the Water-Energy-Food Nexus

Social and Public Policy Dimensions

The National and Texas Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus Public Opinion Project

The WEF nexus is critical to understanding the economic, social, scientific, and technological tradeoffs created by climate change, environmental degradation, population growth, and demographic pressures. The nexus is about how water, energy, and food are interconnected. Energy cannot be produced without impacting water. Water cannot be extracted, consumed, treated, or otherwise used without the input of energy. Food cannot be grown without the use of water and energy. Scientists and engineers measure, model, and develop tools on the linkages, trade-offs, and synergies among water, energy, and food production and use.

As the scientific and technical understanding of the nexus improves, research into the social and policy implications of this emerging knowledge is needed. Given the issue-specific decision making processes and multiple governing bodies involved in energy, water, and food/agricultural policies, understanding how these policies are, or should be, linked becomes a core challenge.

In 2015, ISTPP began a commitment to bridge this gap between science and policy by conducting ongoing research into the public’s understanding of water-energy-food issues. In August 2015, the Institute completed the first-of-its-kind national public opinion survey dedicated to understanding the public’s views on nexus issues with over-samples of the State of Texas and of the City of Houston. Results of this project are providing important insights into the public’s comprehension, attitudes, risk profiles, and policy preferences related to the nexus. The WEF Nexus Research team has begun analyzing the data, presenting results to policy makers, stakeholders, academic conferences, and publishing manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals.

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