The Food-Water-Energy Nexus and Household Behavior: An Oregon Case Study

Erika Allen Wolters, Brent S Steel, Rebecca L Warner


The food-water-energy (FWE) nexus is by definition a ‘wicked problem’ in that potential solutions in one sector may inadvertently create perverse effects in another such as a reduction of available water for energy or food production. Extant and projected demand for FWE creates an intertwined problem of supply and demand and new policy considerations for managing the nexus. This study examines the FWE behaviors of Oregon households using survey data gathered in 2017. Findings suggest that a majority of all sampled households have engaged in sustainable food, energy and water behaviors in the last five years, with rural households less likely to participate in such activities when compared to urban households. Education, environmental values—as measured by the New Ecological Paradigm—and environmental efficacy were also found to be significant predictors of both individual FWE behaviors as well as behaviors in the FWE nexus. The study concludes with some policy recommendations for encouraging sustainable public FWE nexus behaviors.

Keywords: FWE Nexus; rural-urban residency; new ecological paradigm; environmental efficacy; sustainable household behavior

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.