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"The Water–Energy Nexus in Middle East and North Africa"

An aerial image of a power and desalination station in the United Arab Emirates

"The Water–Energy Nexus in Middle East and North Africa"

Journal Article, Energy Policy, volume 39, issue 6, pages 4529-4540

August 2011

Authors: Afreen Siddiqi, Visiting Scholar, Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, Laura Diaz Anadon, Associate, Environment and Natural Resources Program

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Energy Technology Innovation Policy; Environment and Natural Resources; Science, Technology, and Public Policy; Dubai Initiative



Extracting, delivering, and disposing water requires energy, and similarly, many processes for extracting and refining various fuel sources and producing electricity use water. This so-called 'water–energy nexus', is important to understand due to increasing energy demands and decreasing freshwater supplies in many areas. This paper performs a country-level quantitative assessment of this nexus in the MENA region. The results show a highly skewed coupling with a relatively weak dependence of energy systems on fresh water, but a strong dependence of water abstraction and production systems on energy. In case of Saudi Arabia it is estimated that up to 9% of the total annual electrical energy consumption may be attributed to ground water pumping and desalination. Other countries in the Arabian Gulf may be consuming 5–12% or more of total electricity consumption for desalination. The results suggest that policy makers should explicitly consider energy implications in water intensive food imports and future restructuring of water demand. This will help in making more integrated decisions on water and energy infrastructure systems. An integrated assessment may in some cases favor water reuse and changes in the agricultural sector as opposed to the expansion of energy intensive and financially expensive desalination systems.


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The authors are grateful to the Dubai Initiative for supporting the work of the Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group and the Science Technology and Public Policy Program on the water–energy nexus.


For more information about this publication please contact the ETIP Coordinator at 617-496-5584.

Full text of this publication is available at:

For Academic Citation:

Siddiqi, Afreen and Laura Diaz Anadon. "The Water–Energy Nexus in Middle East and North Africa." Energy Policy 39, no. 6 (August 2011): 4529-4540.

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