Like water, food and energy are basic necessities of life that help support robust economies and stable political systems. Agriculture and power generation, moreover, account for the majority of water withdrawals in most developed countries.

In the United States these about 34% of water withdrawn is used for agriculture and about 48% for power generation.

The Food and Agriculture Organization recently estimated that feeding a global population of 9 billion people in 2050 will require a 70% increase in total food production.

Additionally, the World Energy Council has estimated that energy supplies must double by 2050 to meet the energy demand of all households worldwide.

The water-energy nexus

The Coca Cola Company, the World Resources Institute and ISciences L.L.C. overlaid the locations of existing thermal, nuclear, and hydro power plants worldwide on baseline water stress maps for the year 2000 and maps depicting potential changes in water stress under a variety of climate change scenarios developed by the IPCC.

The data in these maps show that 17% of global power plant design capacity on the ground today is located in areas of “medium-high”, “high”, or “extremely high” baseline water stress. By 2025, 29% of today’s global power plant design capacity will see water stress conditions grow “significantly worse”, “extremely worse”, or “exceptionally worse”.

The water-food nexus

The World Resources Institute and its partners have also created maps overlaying the locations of irrigated crops worldwide onto the same baseline and projected water stress maps used for the water-energy nexus analysis. These maps focus on irrigated crops, which represent about 18.5% of total global cultivated crops.

The data in these maps show that around the year 2000, 40% of global irrigated crops were located in areas of “medium-high”, “high”, or “extremely high” water stress. By 2025, 73% of global irrigated crops could see water stress conditions grow “significantly worse”, “extremely worse”, or “exceptionally worse”.