Trade-off analyses and foresight methodologies

Work Package 1 (Analyzing WEFE nexus innovations using trade-off and foresight methodologies) supports planners, policymakers and public/private investors with customized foresight and trade-off analysis tools to plan, prioritize, assess, and scale-up sustainable interventions across water, energy, food, and ecosystems.

The challenge

The global water crisis, climate change, environmental degradation, food security, energy production, poverty, and inequalities are all interlinked. The challenge of understanding the benefits and trade-offs of interventions in this space, therefore, necessitates the development of new analytical ‘nexus’ tools to inform and guide solutions and policies. Implementing and scaling such solutions requires assessment of highly interconnected ecological, social, and economic processes using a systems approach. Systems (nexus) thinking helps identify linkages, interdependencies, feedback loops, and trade-offs at different scales, making it possible to determine and minimize unintended consequences that can jeopardize sustainability and food security, and possibly cause or exacerbate conflict.

Our research

Work Package 1 is co-developing methods for foresight and trade-off analyses to identify, assess, prioritize, and scale nexus interventions. These tools enable the identification of losses and gains under business-as-usual and alternative development pathways, across various sectors.

Research questions

  1. How can we increase access to comprehensive nexus assessments by a broader range of stakeholders?
  2. How can changes in biodiversity be evaluated at basin and national scales?
  3. What interventions can address nexus challenges and promote alternative food production strategies?

2022 outcomes

NEXUS Gains engaged with many actors to share information on potential foresight methodologies and trade-off tools in four basins to prioritize nexus interventions and alignment with ongoing government initiatives. This helped us select hydrological and water resources planning models and hydro-economic frameworks.

A model for the entire Indus Basin has been developed, which analyzes dam operating rules, how water is shared between sectors, as well as environmental flow requirements. Environmental flow assessments support the identification of water needs of riverine ecosystems and associated ecosystem services. Environmental flow assessments were also initiated in western Nepal.

In the Incomati, NEXUS Gains partnered with the University of Manchester to develop a model that can be used to support basin-wide decision making across the riparian states of Eswatini, South Africa, and Mozambique. Data have been collected for model simulation, and the tool can determine how much water is diverted to each sector and state, how much remains available for future activities, and the potential downstream impacts of basin development activities.

In addition, the initiative updated economic models for the Indus and Blue Nile Basins and analyzed irrigation–energy trade-offs in Sudan. Work has also begun on developing an agrobiodiversity hotspot tool for the Ganges (India) using the Agrobiodiversity Index.

Work Package 1 innovations


Mohsin Hafeez:


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