We have only rudimentary understanding of the complex and pervasive connections between water and energy in cities. As water security now threatens energy and economic security, this is a major omission. Understanding the water-energy nexus is necessary if we want to contribute to solving water and energy issues simultaneously; if we want to stop moving problems from one resource dimension to another. This is particularly relevant in the Australian context where energy use for water supplies is forecast to rapidly escalate, growing around 300% from 2007 levels, by 2030. This paper presents a literature review with an aim of characterising the research to date with a particular focus on cities, the major centres of consumption and growth. It systematically analyses a wide range of papers and summarises the diverse objectives, dimensions, and scale of the research to-date together with knowledge gaps. There are many major gaps. These include energy use associated with water in industrial and commercial operations as well as socio-political perspectives. A major gap is the lack of a unifying theoretical framework and consistent methodology for analysis. This is considered a prerequisite for quantitative trans-city comparisons.
Keywords: water energy nexus, review, urban metabolism, cities