Trade-offs and synergies in the water-energy-food nexus: The case of Saskatchewan, Canada

Lina Wu*, Amin Elshorbagy, Saket Pande, La Zhuo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Socioeconomic and climatic changes and limited water resources pose various challenges to water, energy, and food sectors across the globe. The inevitable interactions between water, energy, and food systems bring about trade-offs but also synergies under different decisions and policies. To gain insights into these issues, we developed a water-energy-food (WEF) nexus model that incorporates both production (supply) and demands sides of WEF systems into a single system-of-systems model using the system dynamics (SD) approach. The model is applied to Saskatchewan, Canada, and so is named WEF-Sask. The model results reveal the various levels of sensitivities of water, energy, and food (and feed) sectors to the socioeconomic and climatic drivers. The analysis of trade-offs and synergies shows that the proposed large irrigation expansion (400%) boosts food production by 1.6% while reducing hydropower production by 2.7% in Saskatchewan. Wind expansion strategy (from 5% to 30% of total capacity) makes synergies that not only contribute to electricity supply but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, industrial water demand, and groundwater use by 2.0, 5.7, and 3.8%, respectively. Biofuel use (blending mandate: 10% ethanol and 5% biodiesel) in transportation cuts GHG emissions by 1.2% but reduces the potential food export (food surplus) by 5.0%. The WEF-Sask model allows for scenario analysis toward integrated resources management, and its generic model structure can be expanded to other regions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105192
Number of pages14
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Climatic impacts
  • Socioeconomic impacts
  • Synergies
  • System dynamics modeling
  • Trade-offs
  • Water-energy-food nexus


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