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A comparative assessment of community water system vulnerability to water scarcity in Buckeye and Cave Creek, Arizona

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With the ongoing drought surpassing a decade in Arizona, scholars, water managers and decision-makers have heightened attention to the availability of water resources, especially in rapidly growing regions where demand

With the ongoing drought surpassing a decade in Arizona, scholars, water managers and decision-makers have heightened attention to the availability of water resources, especially in rapidly growing regions where demand may outgrow supplies or outpace the capacity of the community water systems. Community water system managing entities and the biophysical and social characteristics of a place mediate communities' vulnerability to hazards such as drought and long-term climate change. The arid southwestern Phoenix metropolitan area is illustrative of the challenges that developed urban areas in arid climates face globally as population growth and climate change stress already fragile human-environmental systems. This thesis reveals the factors abating and exacerbating differential community water system vulnerability to water scarcity in communities simultaneously facing drought and rapid peri-urban growth. Employing a grounded, qualitative comparative case study approach, this thesis explores the interaction of social, biophysical and institutional factors as they effect the exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity of community water systems in Cave Creek and Buckeye, Arizona. Buckeye, once a small agricultural town in the West Valley, is wholly dependent on groundwater and currently planning for massive development to accommodate 218,591 new residents by 2020. Amid desert hills and near Tonto National Forest in the North Valley, Cave Creek is an upscale residential community suffering frequent water outages due to aging infrastructure and lack of system redundancy. Analyzing interviews, media accounts and policy documents, a narrative was composed explaining how place based factors, nested within a regional institutional water management framework, impact short and long-term vulnerability. This research adds to the library of vulnerability assessments completed using Polsky et al.'s Vulnerability Scoping Diagram and serves a pragmatic need assisting in the development of decision making tools that better represent the drivers of placed based vulnerability in arid metropolitan regions.

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  • 2011

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From policy instruments to action arenas: toward robust fisheries and adaptive fishing households in southwest Nova Scotia

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The coastal fishing community of Barrington, Southwest Nova Scotia (SWNS), has depended on the resilience of ocean ecosystems and resource-based economic activities for centuries. But while many coastal fisheries have

The coastal fishing community of Barrington, Southwest Nova Scotia (SWNS), has depended on the resilience of ocean ecosystems and resource-based economic activities for centuries. But while many coastal fisheries have developed unique ways to govern their resources, global environmental and economic change presents new challenges. In this study, I examine the multi-species fishery of Barrington. My objective was to understand what makes the fishery and its governance system robust to economic and ecological change, what makes fishing households vulnerable, and how household vulnerability and system level robustness interact. I addressed these these questions by focusing on action arenas, their contexts, interactions and outcomes. I used a combination of case comparisons, ethnography, surveys, quantitative and qualitative analysis to understand what influences action arenas in Barrington, Southwest Nova Scotia (SWNS). I found that robustness of the fishery at the system level depended on the strength of feedback between the operational level, where resource users interact with the resource, and the collective-choice level, where agents develop rules to influence fishing behavior. Weak feedback in Barrington has precipitated governance mismatches. At the household level, accounts from harvesters, buyers and experts suggested that decision-making arenas lacked procedural justice. Households preferred individual strategies to acquire access to and exploit fisheries resources. But the transferability of quota and licenses has created divisions between haves and have-nots. Those who have lost their traditional access to other species, such as cod, halibut, and haddock, have become highly dependent on lobster. Based on regressions and multi-criteria decision analysis, I found that new entrants in the lobster fishery needed to maintain high effort and catches to service their debts. But harvesters who did not enter the race for higher catches were most sensitive to low demand and low prices for lobster. This study demonstrates the importance of combining multiple methods and theoretical approaches to avoid tunnel vision in fisheries policy.

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  • 2014

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Managing land, water, and vulnerability on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina

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The manner in which land and water are used and managed is a major influencing factor of global environmental change. Globally, modifications to the landscape have drastically transformed social and

The manner in which land and water are used and managed is a major influencing factor of global environmental change. Globally, modifications to the landscape have drastically transformed social and ecological communities. Land and water management practices also influences people's vulnerability to hazards. Other interrelated factors are compounding problems of environmental change as a result of land and water use changes. Such factors include climate change, sea level rise, the frequency and severity of hurricanes, and increased populations in coastal regions. The implication of global climate change for small islands and small island communities is especially troublesome. Socially, small islands have a limited resource base, deal with varying degrees of insularity, generally have little political power, and have limited economic opportunities. The physical attributes of small islands also increase their vulnerability to global climate change, including limited land area, limited fresh water supplies, and greater distances to resources. The focus of this research project is to document place-specific - and in this case island-specific - human-environmental interactions from a political ecology perspective as a means to address local concerns and possible consequences of global environmental change. The place in which these interactions are examined is the barrier island and village of Ocracoke, North Carolina. I focus on the specific historical-geography of land and water management on Ocracoke as a means to examine relationships between local human-environmental interactions and environmental change.

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  • 2014