The politics of the nexus in the city of Amsterdam

Michele Dalla Fontana*, Ingrid Boas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The nexus concept, which focuses on connections and trade-offs between water, energy and food sectors, has received increasing attention in academia and policy-circles. The concept has actively been examined and approached on global, national and regional scales via multiple academic studies and policy reviews. In this paper, we respond to the call of “urbanising” and “politicising” the nexus. We do so through the exploratory case-study of Amsterdam. We adopt an urban political ecology approach rooted in discussions on the concept of urban metabolism. Urban metabolism studies cities as organisms and as such is focussed on understanding the interconnections of the resource provisioning and infrastructural networks of water, energy and food. An urban political ecology approach centres on the political and economic processes at play in shaping how these interconnections take form in the metabolism of a city. In drawing on insights from both political ecology and urban metabolism, we study who drives the connections between water, energy and food sectors in Amsterdam, who gets excluded, and how the process takes place. We show how the cooperation between the main water and energy companies makes the “water-energy” connections the most well-established in Amsterdam, whereas the role of food, particularly in the form of urban agricultural activities, remains more obscure. Moreover, as opposed to the search for the nexus leading to a more radical transformation of infrastructural networks of provisioning of water, energy and food and their connections, we argue that the nexus in Amsterdam is largely defined by efficiency discourses, technological innovation and market-based solutions that stay within the context of existing infrastructures and embedded ways of provisioning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102388
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • Amsterdam
  • Urban metabolism
  • Urban sustainability
  • Water-energy-food nexus


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