About the Pardee RAND Food-Energy-Water Index

The Pardee RAND Food-Energy-Water Index (FEW Index) is based on the principle that food, energy, and water together are critical to social stability and economic growth. Insecurity in any one area poses serious impediments to human health, wellbeing, and development.

Through data visualization, the FEW Index gives users a holistic view of the current status of resource provision for countries across the world. The Index can help begin to identify how different trends – for example, climate change or population growth – could affect resource security in the future.

Why Is a Holistic View Necessary?

Scientists and decisionmakers concerned with development are increasingly emphasizing the importance of the linkages between food, water, and energy. They understand that lack or excess of any one resource can have a profound affect on each of the others – and ultimately, human life and national development. The interconnectedness of food, water, and energy is often referred to as a nexus.

Domestic food production provides a basic illustration of this nexus. Food is critical to human life, and is directly connected to a nation’s economic growth and productivity.[1] Yet food production requires access to water and energy for irrigation, cooling, processing, and transport; approximately 60 to 80 percent of usable water in the world is used for irrigation.[2] Shortages of irrigation water in dry regions must be mitigated by delivery and must often be treated – and again, both processes, delivery and treatment, use energy.

Recent policy-related studies examine the nexus to:

  1. identify opportunities for improving efficiency across the nexus
  2. reduce conflicts in achieving competing objectives between the sectors, and
  3. build synergies and improve governance across each sector. [3]

The FEW Index was designed to support these emerging holistic approaches to resource security, and to policy responses at a national and international level. A holistic approach has the potential to improve a nation’s economic efficiency, resource efficiency, livelihood options, and public health. Further, international development efforts may be more likely to succeed if energy, food, and water resources are understood and managed holistically.

What Kinds of Questions Can the FEW Index Answer?

The FEW Index is comprised of three sub-indices—one for each resource—and brings all data together in a consistent manner. You can review our data and formulations in our technical documentation. Bringing together three sub-indices in one tool make it possible to answer a number of critical development-related questions, including the following:

  • How “healthy” is a country’s status of food, water, energy resources?
  • What are the dominant sources of resource insecurity in a country?
  • How can trends in society, technology, or the climate affect the security of food, water, and energy security in a country?


  1. Timmer, C. P. (2000). "The macro dimensions of food security: economic growth, equitable distribution, and food price stability." Food Policy 25(3): 283-295; Loeppke, R., M. Taitel, et al. (2009). "Health and productivity as a business strategy: a multiemployer study." Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 51(4): 411-428.
  2. Gerbens-Leenes, P., A. Hoekstra, et al. (2009). "The water footprint of energy from biomass: A quantitative assessment and consequences of an increasing share of bio-energy in energy supply." Ecological economics 68(4): 1052-1060.
  3. Hoff, H. (2011). Understanding the nexus. Background Paper for the Bonn2011 Conference: The Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus., Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm; OECD (2011).