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Quenching our thirst for future knowledge: participatory scenario construction and sustainable water governance in a desert city

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Transformational sustainability science demands that stakeholders and researchers consider the needs and values of future generations in pursuit of solutions to sustainability problems. This dissertation research focuses on the real-world problem of unsustainable water governance in the Phoenix region of

Transformational sustainability science demands that stakeholders and researchers consider the needs and values of future generations in pursuit of solutions to sustainability problems. This dissertation research focuses on the real-world problem of unsustainable water governance in the Phoenix region of Central Arizona. A sustainability transition is the local water system is necessary to overcome sustainability challenges and scenarios can be used to explore plausible and desirable futures to inform a transition, but this requires some methodological refinements. This dissertation refines scenario methodology to generate water governance scenarios for metropolitan Phoenix that: (i) feature enhanced stakeholder participation; (ii) incorporate normative values and preferences; (iii) focus on governance actors and their activities; and (iv) meet an expanded set of quality criteria. The first study in the dissertation analyzes and evaluates participatory climate change scenarios to provide recommendations for the construction and use of scenarios that advance climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. The second study proposes and tests a set of plausibility indications to substantiate or evaluate claims that scenarios and future projections could become reality, helping to establish the legitimacy of radically different or transformative scenarios among an extended peer community. The case study of water governance begins with the third study, which includes a current state analysis and sustainability appraisal of the Phoenix-area water system. This is followed by a fourth study which surveys Phoenix-area water decision-makers to better understand water-related preferences for use in scenario construction. The fifth and final study applies a multi-method approach to construct future scenarios of water governance in metropolitan Phoenix in 2030 using stakeholder preferences, among other normative frames, and testing systemic impacts with WaterSim 5.0, a dynamic simulation model of water in the region. The scenarios are boundary objects around which stakeholders can weigh tradeoffs, set priorities and reflect on impacts of water-related activities, broadening policy dialogues around water governance in central Arizona. Together the five studies advance transformational sustainability research by refining methods to engage stakeholders in crafting futures that define how individuals and institutions should operate in transformed and sustainable systems.

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Date Created
2014

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Coordination and power in water governance: the case of Prescott Active Management Area

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Studies of governance have focused on the interactions among diverse actors while implicitly recognizing the role of power within those relationships. Explicit power analyses of water governance coordination are needed to better understand the conditions for and barriers to sustainability.

Studies of governance have focused on the interactions among diverse actors while implicitly recognizing the role of power within those relationships. Explicit power analyses of water governance coordination are needed to better understand the conditions for and barriers to sustainability. I therefore utilized a novel conceptual framework to analyze vertical and horizontal governance, along with power, to address how governance interactions affect water sustainability in terms of (1) interactions among governance actors across local to state levels; (2) coordination among actors at the local level; and (3) the exercise of power among assorted actors. I adopted a qualitative case study methodology that involved triangulating interview transcripts, policy documents, and other data in the case study area of Prescott, Arizona.

Across governance scales, my analysis found that informational and contentious interactions occur around water management plans, groundwater withdrawal fees, and growth debates due to the stipulations of Arizona’s Groundwater Management Act. Locally, municipalities in different groundwater basins coordinate by pooling resources for water development due to shared growth visions. However, municipalities within the same groundwater basin are divided in their pursuit of the state-mandated goal of safe yield due to discontent arising from differing growth visions, libertarian values of water control, and unequal responsibilities among actors in conserving water or monitoring use. Finally, local and state actors exercise power through litigation, legislation, and political processes to pursue their interests, thereby limiting coordination for water sustainability.

My explicit analysis of power reveals that coordination occurs not just because of water policies but due to interest-based water narratives (growth and libertarian). The emphasis of growth proponents on supply augmentation and libertarian opposition to regulations pose significant barriers to water sustainability. Successful policy-based pursuits of water sustainability will, thus, require an acknowledgment of these management asymmetries and commitments to addressing them.

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Date Created
2017

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Reassembling hydrosocial metabolic relations: a political ecology of water struggles in Chile

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This research investigates the dialectical relationships between water and social power. I analyze how the coupled processes of development, water privatization, and climate change have been shaping water struggles in Chile. I focus on how these hydro-struggles are reconfiguring everyday

This research investigates the dialectical relationships between water and social power. I analyze how the coupled processes of development, water privatization, and climate change have been shaping water struggles in Chile. I focus on how these hydro-struggles are reconfiguring everyday practices of water management at the community scale and the ways in which these dynamics may contribute to more democratic and sustainable modes of water governance at both regional and national scales. Using a historical-geographical and multi-sited ethnographical lens, I investigate how different geographical projects (forestry, irrigated agriculture, and hydropower) were deployed in the Biobio and Santiago regions of Chile during the last 200 hundred years. I analyze how since the 1970s, these hydro-modernization projects have been gradually privatized, which in turn has led to environmental degradation and water dispossession affecting peasants and other rural populations. I frame these transformations using the political-ecological notion of hydrosocial assemblages produced by the different stages of the hydro-modernity—Liberal, Keynesian, Socialist, Neoliberal. I detail how these stages have repeatedly reshaped Chilean hydrosocial processes. I unpack the stages through the analysis of forestry, irrigation and hydropower developments in the central and southern regions of Chile, emphasizing how they have produced both uneven socio-spatial development and growing hydrosocial metabolic rifts, particularly during neoliberal hydro-modernity (1981-2015). Hydrosocial metabolic rifts occur when people have been separated or dispossessed from direct access and control of their traditional water resources. I conclude by arguing that there is a need to overcome the current unsustainable market-led approach to water governance. I propose the notion of a 'commons hydro-modernity', which is based on growing environmental and water social movements that are promoting a socio-spatial project to reassemble Chilean hydrosocial metabolic relations in a more democratic and sustainable way.

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Date Created
2016

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Sustainability principles and the future of Phoenix, Arizona: framing the Salt River's urban waterway redevelopment

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As urban populations rapidly increase in an era of climate change and multiple social and environmental uncertainties, scientists and governments are cultivating knowledge and solutions for the sustainable growth and maintenance of cities. Although substantial literature focuses on urban water

As urban populations rapidly increase in an era of climate change and multiple social and environmental uncertainties, scientists and governments are cultivating knowledge and solutions for the sustainable growth and maintenance of cities. Although substantial literature focuses on urban water resource management related to both human and ecological sustainability, few studies assess the unique role of waterway restorations to bridge anthropocentric and ecological concerns in urban environments. To address this gap, my study addressed if well-established sustainability principles are evoked during the nascent discourse of recently proposed urban waterway developments along over fifty miles of Arizona’s Salt River. In this study, a deductive content analysis is used to illuminate the emergence of sustainability principles, the framing of the redevelopment, and to illuminate macro-environmental discourses. Three sustainability principles dominated the discourse: civility and democratic governance; livelihood sufficiency and opportunity; and social-ecological system integrity. These three principles connected to three macro-discourses: economic rationalism; democratic pragmatism; and ecological modernity. These results hold implications for policy and theory and inform urban development processes for improvements to sustainability. As continued densification, in-fill and rapid urbanization continues in the 21st century, more cities are looking to reconstruct urban riverways. Therefore, the emergent sustainability discourse regarding potential revitalizations along Arizona’s Salt River is a manifestation of how waterways are perceived, valued, and essential to urban environments for anthropocentric and ecological needs.

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Date Created
2019