Governing the Unseen: A Comparative Analysis of Arizona and Texas Groundwater Institutions
AdvisorBauer, Carl J.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation is an in-depth comparative case study analysis of different ways of tackling the widespread and difficult problem of managing and governing groundwater aquifers. In an open access situation, groundwater presents a highly challenging common pool resource dilemma, necessitating the development of some kind of institutional arrangements to avoid the negative physical and socio-economic consequences of intensive resource development. Groundwater is especially challenging because not only is it migratory, its movements and volumes are often hard to observe and predict. Further, aquifers and groundwater basins may be geographically expansive, spanning great horizontal distance and underlying and supporting a variety of socio-ecological settings. Some emerging governance trends in the Western U.S. are decentralized decision-making and the use of market mechanisms.The analysis I report here is largely concerned with two primary governance problems: (1) how to effectively address multi-scalar impacts of groundwater use, and (2) how to allocate and access to groundwater resources among competing and increasing demands. It is motivated by the primary research question: what factors promote and hinder the effectiveness of different approaches to groundwater governance and why? The dissertation explores dimensions of this question through a comparison of contrasting approaches to groundwater administration in the major Southwestern metropolitan areas of Phoenix, Arizona and San Antonio, Texas.In the Phoenix area, I conclude that more capacity is required to resolve difficult local and regional groundwater problems that are not addressed by top-down region-wide regulations. In the case of Texas, recent legislative innovations have developed a formal bottom-up regional groundwater planning and management system that reflects principles of good governance. However, its effectiveness appears limited due to a number of problems. Overall, I find that both Arizona and Texas have developed only partial polycentric governance systems for dealing with both local and regional groundwater problems. The comparative analysis of cases studies yields insights to expand the general understanding of the merits and limitations associated with emerging decentralized groundwater governance approaches.This research also contributes to the literature on water transfers and markets by developing the first in-depth quantitative-qualitative institutional analyses of both the Edwards Aquifer groundwater cap and trade system and the market for extinguishment credits in the Phoenix and Pinal Active Management Areas of Central Arizona. Findings highlight the importance of the material characteristics of aquifers for the functioning of a groundwater market and the different roles and markets can play within a regional groundwater governance regime.
Degree ProgramGraduate College