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Visualizing water‐energy nexus landscapes

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Abstract Over the past decade, the water‐energy nexus (WEN) has emerged as a prominent framework with which to analyze and visualize interconnections between energy production, freshwater resources, and the hydrological cycle. The WEN is a fundamentally geographic concept embedded in landscapes. WEN analyses often include landscape visualizations, yet these are rarely conceptually rigorous; consequently, the visual‐representational dimensions of WEN analyses remain relatively weak. Our paper addresses this gap through a meta‐review of 503 WEN visualizations sourced from 336 scholarly articles. Based on this analysis, we argue that WEN visualizations often depict complex landscapes as technical systems, while eliding broader considerations of the multiscalar, spatiotemporal, and hydrosocial dimensions of water and energy. In response to these limitations, we offer an alternative approach to visualizing hydrosocial landscapes that draws upon parallel work in geography and cognate disciplines. In the concluding section of the paper, we formulate a set of interdisciplinary recommendations to guide the production of more theoretically‐informed nexus visualizations grounded in the concepts of spatiality, temporality, and hydrosociality. The article is categorized under: Engineering Water > Planning Water Human Water > Methods Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness Engineering Water > Methods
Number of water‐energy nexus publications in the academic literature, 2008–2019
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Representative water‐energy nexus (WEN) landscape visualization, drawing on the authors' research on the WEN in northeastern British Columbia, Canada. Hydraulic fracturing sites are represented as dots colored on a red‐blue gradient based on their proximity to water‐intensive agricultural lands (shown in green). These sites are proportionately scaled based on their volume of water consumption. Urbanized areas and First Nations reserves (orange) are also depicted
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Representative “conventional” water‐energy nexus (WEN) visualization, drawing on the authors' research on the WEN in northeastern British Columbia, Canada. Hydraulic fracturing sites are represented as blue dots proportionately scaled by volume of water consumed; underlying watershed management basins are shaded yellow in proportion to the cumulative volume of water withdrawn from them for hydraulic fracturing purposes
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Generalized Sankey diagram, depicting flows of water use
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Bibliometric analysis of water‐energy nexus (WEN) visualization citation trends
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Engineering Water > Methods
Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness
Human Water > Methods
Engineering Water > Planning Water

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