Advancing Water Management through Methods to Assess Environmental Flow Needs and Improve Stakeholder Engagement
AuthorMott Lacroix, Kelly E.
Arid Lands Resource Sciences
AdvisorMegdal, Sharon B.
Committee ChairMegdal, Sharon B.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractAdequate water for ecosystems and humans is at a premium as the global population increases and the climate changes. Coping with these impacts requires tools to improve water governance and water management through legal or policy mechanisms. Water governance generates laws, policies, and rulings and water management implements those laws, policies, and rulings and rulings through management decisions. A key concern of water governance is balancing human and ecosystem water needs. Effective governance that promotes sustainable use of water resources to maintain ecosystem integrity is challenging. Many regions do not have sufficient resources for water management or water for ecosystems is not protected under traditional legal mechanisms. The challenge of improving water governance for ecosystems is, therefore, twofold. First, there is a need to provide resources that build the capacity of water managers to allocate water to ecosystems. Second, mechanisms to promote effective transformation of environmental flow needs into policy or practice are required. This research provides methods to advance water management by: 1) assessing environmental flow needs through creation of a geospatial database and 2) improving stakeholder engagement through lessons learned from three multi-year stakeholder engagement processes. Appendix A describes the current understanding of the link between hydrology and riparian and aquatic ecosystems in Arizona through synthesis of environmental flow needs. The synthesized information, stored in a geospatial database, can be used by water managers to determine the water needs to maintain riparian and aquatic habitats. Review of 121 studies reveals that there are very few analyses of surface water and groundwater requirements for intermittent or ephemeral river systems, and there are only limited generalizable data for aquatic species. This database can be used to identify critical geographic and topical knowledge gaps, as well as serve as a single place for water and land managers to assess and use the most current research to inform management decisions. Appendix B provides an empirical example of engagement to promote social learning as a way to preserve water for the environment when law does not protect environmental flows. Through 43 focus groups with 226 individuals representing a diversity of interests, we determined that there was common ground on concerns about water conservation, cooperation, financial incentives, and multiple benefits for water use. Through this engagement process, we found that identifying and then building common ground requires attention to details. These details include the process of analyzing qualitative data and methods for displaying complex information, which are not frequently discussed in the social learning or stakeholder engagement literature. Appendix C presents a framework for designing effective stakeholder engagement based on the experiences of the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center in three separate processes that engaged water experts. The proposed framework provides an iterative and flexible approach centered on a bridging organization that can bring people together and keep the engagement process moving forward. As illustrated through an evaluation of the three projects, the proposed framework provides for inclusivity, interactiveness, and flexibility in engagement through guidance by a steering committee and iteratively examining the water resource management problem. While further assessment is necessary, it appears that this framework is general enough to be applicable across projects at three different scales and with three separate sets of goals, yet detailed enough to provide a tangible approach that could aid other processes where the goal is implementing and evaluating expert engagement to solve complex problems and promote social learning. Previous studies on water governance have focused predominantly on the identification of the current problems with governance. However, because humans have an important role in shaping the global water cycle, the time has come to focus on solutions. In order to further water management solutions, a better understanding of the tools needed to manage water for ecosystems and effective methods for co-producing knowledge or encouraging social learning are needed. This research provides a regional example of approaches to advance water management using a tool to assess environmental flows needs and frameworks for promoting common ground and social learning in stakeholder engagement.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Arid Lands Resource Sciences