Water Resources, Tiered Institutions, and Rural-Urban Land Use in Coupled Social-Ecological Dryland Systems: Evidence from the Sonoran Desert
AuthorLee, Ryan Hawken
integrated water resources management
riparian corridors and ecosystems
urban greening - green infrastructure
AdvisorScott, Christopher A.
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, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
EmbargoRelease after 09/11/2020
AbstractA number of complex sustainable development challenges beset the 21st century. Central among them are how to address climatic, landscape, and human driven impacts on water resources in a manner that adequately supports both environmental health and human prosperity. Dryland water resources management, in both rural and urban contexts, underscores how complex this challenge is due to human and natural processes coupling into social-ecological systems to exert reciprocal feedbacks upon another. Addressing this challenge requires tools to assess and understand social and ecological interlinkages so that institutional and technological interventions to improve water governance and management can be identified. Results, analysis, and discussion from three dryland studies (Appendices A, B, and C) located in rural and urban Sonoran Desert locations, reinforce how complex are the challenges and pressing is the need for solutions in social-ecological systems. We also find and show that collaborative decision-making between institutions and stakeholders is the primary mechanism whereby humans are able to respond to with programs, policies, and actions able to deal with the dual pressure on water resources posed by climate change and heightened demand while reconciling economic efficiency, social equity, and environmental sustainability. Social-ecological assessment and response are two parts of the adaptive management process, and are both specific components of the three presented studies. Each study’s social-ecological assessment shows that vulnerability is not homogenous, and defined spatio-temporally, as well as by socio-demographics. This finding is an additional challenge to effective response, management, and mitigation of climate change, landscape change, and water insecurity. In particular: Appendix A uses the water-energy nexus and case examples from Tajikistan and Mexico, to show that (a) poorly articulated multi-tiered institutional arrangements coupled with failure to generate truly participatory interaction of stakeholders lead to water insecurity, (b) the livelihoods of vulnerable populations are threatened when users experience water insecurity that is created or exacerbated when tiered- institutions neglect users’ signals by failure to respond with actions that promote sound resource management or mitigate livelihood threats, and (c) water and livelihood security would be improved by adaptive actions targeted at user-defined causes of water insecurity and coordination between local resource users and institutions at multiple levels. Appendix B uses an interdisciplinary set of methods to show that rangeland productivity, surface-water reaches, and aquifers in Sonora, Mexico’s Río San Miguel Watershed are reduced to critical levels, agrarian livelihoods endangered, and within this dynamic that downstream locations are less resilient and water secure than operations upstream. Partnerships and cooperation amongst ranchers, sub-watersheds, and institutions are amongst the management and policy interventions available to prepare for or mitigate the developing social-ecological crisis in the watershed. Appendix C looks at challenges and potential solutions to documented disparity in participation between low-income versus median- income households in rainwater harvesting (RWH) programs in Tucson, Arizona to show that (a) Hispanic minority, low- income communities experience a disproportionate lack of tree canopy and higher urban temperatures compared to residents of other areas of the city, (b) both social and ecological factors are at cause for the inequitable, imbalanced racial/ethnic distribution of high heat risk in the city, and (c) that tiered-institutions, namely, NGOs and focal points historically embedded in socio-ecologically vulnerable communities, are key to developing and mediating greening and sustainable urban development processes to address the challenge. The lessons learned from the three studies highlight barriers, challenges, and best-practices that are valuable for sustainable water management, climate adaptation, and development in other groundwater-reliant economies, rural-urban dryland systems, climatic regions, or natural resource regimes.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Arid Lands Resource Sciences