A review of interconnected challenges in the water–energy–food nexus: Urban pollution perspective towards sustainable development

Kazem Javan, Ali Altaee, Saeed BaniHashemi, Mariam Darestani, John Zhou, Gloria Pignatta

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The swift growth of cities worldwide poses significant challenges in ensuring a sufficient water, energy, and food supply. The Nexus has innovated valuable systems to address these challenges. However, a crucial issue is the potential for pollution resulting from these systems, which directly and indirectly impacts public health and the overall quality of urban living. This study comprehensively reviews the interconnected challenges of the water-energy-food (WEF) nexus and various forms of pollution in cities. The primary focus of this review article is to showcase the findings of WEF nexus studies regarding various pollutions across different geographical regions and spatial scales. It aims to examine the problems resulting from these pollutions, specifically their effects on human health and urban life. It also delves into the sources of pollution as identified in these studies. Furthermore, the article will highlight the proposed solutions from the research aimed at effectively mitigating pollution in each sector studied. This article is a systematic review which analyses research sources from the Scopus database. It extensively reviewed 2463 peer-reviewed published articles and focused explicitly on articles related to the WEF nexus that discussed pollution. Our study emphasizes, firstly, raising awareness about the crucial link between the WEF nexus, pollution, urban environments, and human health among policymakers and key stakeholders, including urban planners, industry partners and municipalities. This is to promote the development of policies that encourage sustainable practices and key stakeholders. Secondly, it evaluates WEF nexus and pollution research methods and findings, aiding in identifying research gaps technological innovation and potential, as well as enhancing decision-making. Lastly, it outlines future research challenges, providing a roadmap for researchers and policymakers to advance understanding in this domain and identify opportunities for resource efficiency and collaboration between different sectors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number169319
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2024


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