The Food-Energy-Water (FEW) nexus is the interaction and the interdependence of the food, energy and water systems. These interdependencies exist in all parts of the world yet little knowledge exists of the complexity within these interdependent systems. Using Arizona as a case study, systems-oriented frameworks are examined for their value in revealing the complexity of FEW nexus. Industrial Symbiosis, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Urban Metabolism are examined. The Industrial Symbiosis presents the system as purely a technical one and looks only at technology and hard infrastructure.
The LCA framework takes a reductionist approach and tries to make the system manageable by setting boundary conditions. This allows the frameworks to analyze the soft infrastructure as well as the hard infrastructure. The LCA framework also helps determine potential impact. Urban Metabolism analyzes the interactions between the different infrastructures within the confines of the region and retains the complexity of the system. It is concluded that a combination of the frameworks may provide the most insight in revealing the complexity of nexus and guiding decision makers towards improving sustainability and resilience.