EGU24-12757, updated on 09 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Integrated technical and governance analysis of the water-energy-food-ecosystems Nexus in a mountain catchment in Northern Italy

Enrico Lucca1,2, Luigi Piemontese1, Janez Sušnik2, Sara Masia2,3, Giulio Castelli1,4,5, and Elena Bresci1
Enrico Lucca et al.
  • 1Department of Agriculture, Food, Environment and Forestry (DAGRI), Università degli Studi di Firenze, Via San Bonaventura, 13, Firenze 50145, Italy
  • 2Land and Water Management Department, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, PO Box 3015, 2601DA Delft, the Netherlands
  • 3CMCC Foundation – Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Climate Change, IAFES Division, Viale Italia 39, 07100 Sassari, Italy
  • 4UNESCO Chair in Hydropolitics, University of Geneva, Bd Carl-Vogt 66, 1205 Genève, Switzerland
  • 5Environmental Governance and Territorial Development Hub (GEDT), University of Geneva, Bd Carl-Vogt 66, 1205 Genève, Switzerland

The simultaneous achievement of multiple societal, environmental, and economic goals is challenged by the interconnectedness of global and local resources systems (e.g., water for food and energy production, energy for water extraction and treatment), and by the rules and actors that determine the allocation of such resources. The Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems (WEFE) Nexus promotes a systemic approach to the management and governance of intertwined systems focusing on the mutual interdependence between sectors and emphasising trade-offs and synergies across sectoral goals. Despite these premises, however, assessments of WEFE Nexus systems often do not address in an integrated manner the multiple dimensions under which the interconnections among water, energy, food, and ecosystems emerge, i.e., from the flows of resources across sectors to their socio-economic implications and their institutional context. In our study, we develop a methodological framework to characterise the interlinkages among water, energy, food, and ecosystems both at the biophysical and at the governance level. Through consultation with local stakeholders, we build casual loop diagrams to show physical relationships between processes and activities in the four sectors, while we apply the network of action situations (NAS) approach to assess interactions between venues of decision making and policy formulation. We apply this integrated approach to the Torrente Orco mountain catchment in Northern Italy, where the interlinkages between cereal production, energy generation and the preservation of natural ecosystems are becoming more evident due to the impact of climate change and sectoral developments. To inform the analysis, we used different data collection methods, including interviews with stakeholders, observation of stakeholder meetings, review of local news and analysis of regional plans and regulations. The results reveal that the water deficits experienced more frequently in recent years has led to key trade-offs between water uses, such as the abrogation of environmental flow requirement to meet irrigation water demands, but it also created important synergies, such as the multi-purpose use of hydropower reservoirs during droughts, the shift towards more water-efficient crops and the modernization of irrigation systems. Furthermore, three venues of decision making are highlighted as key opportunities to reconcile the water balance at the catchment scale: the renewal of hydropower concessions, the definition of the environmental flow requirement, and the renewal of irrigation permits.  The proposed approach was proven useful to reach a comprehensive overview of Nexus interconnections, a first crucial step for any further assessment that aims at understanding how the system might evolve in the future and what technical and non-technical interventions could help increase its resilience.


We gratefully acknowledge the ‘PON Ricerca e Innovazione 2014-2020: Istruzione e ricerca per il recupero—REACT-EU’ Programme of the Italian Government, through the PhD scholarship Granted to Enrico Lucca (scholarship n. DOT137M5SZ n. 2, 2022–2024)

How to cite: Lucca, E., Piemontese, L., Sušnik, J., Masia, S., Castelli, G., and Bresci, E.: Integrated technical and governance analysis of the water-energy-food-ecosystems Nexus in a mountain catchment in Northern Italy, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-12757,, 2024.

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