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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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2014

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Toward sustainable governance of water resources: the case of Guanacaste, Costa Rica

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Research shows that many water governance regimes are failing to guide social-ecological systems away from points, beyond which, damage to social and environmental well-being will be difficult to correct. This problem is apparent in regions that face water conflicts and

Research shows that many water governance regimes are failing to guide social-ecological systems away from points, beyond which, damage to social and environmental well-being will be difficult to correct. This problem is apparent in regions that face water conflicts and climate threats. There remains a need to clarify what is it about governance that people need to change in water conflict prone regions, how to collectively go about doing that, and how research can actively support this. To address these needs, here I present a collaborative research project from the dry tropics of Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica. The project addressed the overarching questions: How can water be governed sustainably in water-contested and climate-threatened regions? And, how can people transition current water governance regimes toward more sustainable ones? In pursuit of these questions, a series of individual studies were performed with many partners and collaborators. These studies included: a participatory analysis and sustainability assessment of current water governance regimes; a case analysis and comparison of water conflicts; constructing alternative governance scenarios; and, developing governance transition strategies. Results highlight the need for water governance that addresses asymmetrical knowledge gaps especially concerning groundwater resources, reconciles disenfranchised groups, and supports local leaders. Yet, actions taken based on these initial results, despite some success influencing policy, found substantial challenges confronting them. In-depth conflict investigations, for example, found that deeply rooted issues such friction between opposing local-based and national institutions were key conflict drivers in the region. To begin addressing these issues, researchers and stakeholders then constructed a set of governing alternatives and devised governance transition strategies that could actively support people to achieve more sustainable alternatives and avoid less sustainable ones. These efforts yielded insight into the collective actions needed to implement more sustainable water governance regimes, including ways to overcoming barriers that drive harmful water conflicts. Actions based on these initial strategies yielded further opportunities, challenges, and lessons. Overall, the project addresses the research and policy gap between identifying what is sustainable water governance and understanding the strategies needed to implement it successfully in regions that experience water conflict and climate impacts.

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2014

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The shift of precipitation maxima on the annual maximum series using regional climate model precipitation data

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Ten regional climate models (RCMs) and atmosphere-ocean generalized model parings from the North America Regional Climate Change Assessment Program were used to estimate the shift of extreme precipitation due to climate change using present-day and future-day climate scenarios. RCMs emulate

Ten regional climate models (RCMs) and atmosphere-ocean generalized model parings from the North America Regional Climate Change Assessment Program were used to estimate the shift of extreme precipitation due to climate change using present-day and future-day climate scenarios. RCMs emulate winter storms and one-day duration events at the sub-regional level. Annual maximum series were derived for each model pairing, each modeling period; and for annual and winter seasons. The reliability ensemble average (REA) method was used to qualify each RCM annual maximum series to reproduce historical records and approximate average predictions, because there are no future records. These series determined (a) shifts in extreme precipitation frequencies and magnitudes, and (b) shifts in parameters during modeling periods. The REA method demonstrated that the winter season had lower REA factors than the annual season. For the winter season the RCM pairing of the Hadley regional Model 3 and the Geophysical Fluid-Dynamics Laboratory atmospheric-land generalized model had the lowest REA factors. However, in replicating present-day climate, the pairing of the Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics' Regional Climate Model Version 3 with the Geophysical Fluid-Dynamics Laboratory atmospheric-land generalized model was superior. Shifts of extreme precipitation in the 24-hour event were measured using precipitation magnitude for each frequency in the annual maximum series, and the difference frequency curve in the generalized extreme-value-function parameters. The average trend of all RCM pairings implied no significant shift in the winter annual maximum series, however the REA-selected models showed an increase in annual-season precipitation extremes: 0.37 inches for the 100-year return period and for the winter season suggested approximately 0.57 inches for the same return period. Shifts of extreme precipitation were estimated using predictions 70 years into the future based on RCMs. Although these models do not provide climate information for the intervening 70 year period, the models provide an assertion on the behavior of future climate. The shift in extreme precipitation may be significant in the frequency distribution function, and will vary depending on each model-pairing condition. The proposed methodology addresses the many uncertainties associated with the current methodologies dealing with extreme precipitation.

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2013

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Relationship between single-family residential water use and its determinants: a spatio-temporal study of Phoenix, Arizona

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The dynamics of urban water use are characterized by spatial and temporal variability that is influenced by associated factors at different scales. Thus it is important to capture the relationship between urban water use and its determinants in a spatio-temporal

The dynamics of urban water use are characterized by spatial and temporal variability that is influenced by associated factors at different scales. Thus it is important to capture the relationship between urban water use and its determinants in a spatio-temporal framework in order to enhance understanding and management of urban water demand. This dissertation aims to contribute to understanding the spatio-temporal relationships between single-family residential (SFR) water use and its determinants in a desert city. The dissertation has three distinct papers to support this goal. In the first paper, I demonstrate that aggregated scale data can be reliably used to study the relationship between SFR water use and its determinants without leading to significant ecological fallacy. The usability of aggregated scale data facilitates scientific inquiry about SFR water use with more available aggregated scale data. The second paper advances understanding of the relationship between SFR water use and its associated factors by accounting for the spatial and temporal dependence in a panel data setting. The third paper of this dissertation studies the historical contingency, spatial heterogeneity, and spatial connectivity in the relationship of SFR water use and its determinants by comparing three different regression models. This dissertation demonstrates the importance and necessity of incorporating spatio-temporal components, such as scale, dependence, and heterogeneity, into SFR water use research. Spatial statistical models should be used to understand the effects of associated factors on water use and test the effectiveness of certain management policies since spatial effects probably will significantly influence the estimates if only non-spatial statistical models are used. Urban water demand management should pay attention to the spatial heterogeneity in predicting the future water demand to achieve more accurate estimates, and spatial statistical models provide a promising method to do this job.

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2013

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Institutional analysis of water management for agriculture in the Chancay-Lambayeque basin, Peru

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This research presents an analysis of the main institutions and economic incentives that drive farmers behaviors on water use in the Chancay-Lambayeque basin, located in Lambayeque (Peru), a semi arid area of great agricultural importance. I focus my research on

This research presents an analysis of the main institutions and economic incentives that drive farmers behaviors on water use in the Chancay-Lambayeque basin, located in Lambayeque (Peru), a semi arid area of great agricultural importance. I focus my research on identifying the underlying causes of non-collaborative behaviors in regard to water appropriation and infrastructure provisioning decision that generates violent conflicts between users. Since there is not an agreed and concrete criteria to assess "sustainability" I used economic efficiency as my evaluative criteria because, even though this is not a sufficient condition to achieve sustainability it is a necessary one, and thus achieving economic efficiency is moving towards sustainable outcomes. Water management in the basin is far from being economic efficient which means that there is some room for improving social welfare. Previous studies of the region have successfully described the symptoms of this problem; however, they did not focus their study on identifying the causes of the problem. In this study, I describe and analyze how different rules and norms (institutions) define farmers behaviors related to water use. For this, I use the Institutional Analysis and Development framework and a dynamic game theory model to analyze how biophysical attributes, community attributes and rules of the system combined with other factors, can affect farmers actions in regard to water use and affect the sustainability of water resources. Results show that water rights are the factor that is fundamental to the problem. Then, I present an outline for policy recommendation, which includes a revision of water rights and related rules and policies that could increase the social benefits with the use of compensation mechanisms to reach economic efficiency. Results also show that commonly proposed solutions, as switch to less water intensive and more added value crops, improvement in the agronomic and entrepreneurial knowledge, or increases in water tariffs, can mitigate or exacerbate the loss of benefits that come from the poor incentives in the system; but they do not change the nature of the outcome.

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2013

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Embedded resource accounting with applications to water embedded in energy trade in the western U.S

Description

Water resource management is becoming increasingly burdened by uncertain and fluctuating conditions resulting from climate change and population growth which place increased demands on already strained resources. Innovative water management schemes are necessary to address the reality of available water

Water resource management is becoming increasingly burdened by uncertain and fluctuating conditions resulting from climate change and population growth which place increased demands on already strained resources. Innovative water management schemes are necessary to address the reality of available water supplies. One such approach is the substitution of trade in virtual water for the use of local water supplies. This study provides a review of existing work in the use of virtual water and water footprint methods. Virtual water trade has been shown to be a successful method for addressing water scarcity and decreasing overall water consumption by shifting high water consumptive processes to wetter regions. These results however assume that all water resource supplies are equivalent regardless of physical location and they do not tie directly to economic markets. In this study we introduce a new mathematical framework, Embedded Resource Accounting (ERA), which is a synthesis of several different analytical methods presently used to quantify and describe human interactions with the economy and the natural environment. We define the specifics of the ERA framework in a generic context for the analysis of embedded resource trade in a way that links directly with the economics of that trade. Acknowledging the cyclical nature of water and the abundance of actual water resources on Earth, this study addresses fresh water availability within a given region. That is to say, the quantities of fresh water supplies annually available at acceptable quality for anthropogenic uses. The results of this research provide useful tools for water resource managers and policy makers to inform decision making on, (1) reallocation of local available fresh water resources, and (2) strategic supplementation of those resources with outside fresh water resources via the import of virtual water.

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2013

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Moderating power: municipal interbasin groundwater transfers in Arizona

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The act of moving water across basins is a recent phenomenon in Arizona water policy. This thesis creates a narrative arc for understanding the long-term issues that set precedents for interbasin water transportation and the immediate causes--namely the passage of

The act of moving water across basins is a recent phenomenon in Arizona water policy. This thesis creates a narrative arc for understanding the long-term issues that set precedents for interbasin water transportation and the immediate causes--namely the passage of the seminal Groundwater Management Act (GMA) in 1980--that motivated Scottsdale, Mesa, and Phoenix to acquire rural farmlands in the mid-1980s with the intent of transporting the underlying groundwater back to their respective service areas in the immediate future. Residents of rural areas were active participants in not only the sales of these farmlands, but also in how municipalities would economically develop these properties in the years to come. Their role made these municipal "water farm" purchases function as exchanges. Fears about the impact of these properties and the water transportation they anticipated on communities-of-origin; the limited nature of economic, fiscal, and hydrologic data at the time; and the rise of private water speculators turned water farms into a major political controversy. The six years it took the legislature to wrestle with the problem at the heart this issue--the value of water to rural communities--were among its most tumultuous. The loss of key lawmakers involved in GMA negotiations, the impeachment of Governor Evan Mecham, and a bribery scandal called AZScam collectively sidetracked negotiations. Even more critical was the absence of a mutual recognition that these water farms posed a problem and the external pressure that had forced all parties involved in earlier groundwater-related negotiations to craft compromise. After cities and speculators failed to force a bill favorable to their interests in 1989, a re-alignment among blocs occurred: cities joined with rural interests to craft legislation that grandfathered in existing urban water farms and limited future water farms to several basins. In exchange, rural interests supported a bill to create a Phoenix-area groundwater replenishment district that enabled cooperative management of water supplies. These two bills, which were jointly signed into law in June 1991, tentatively resolved the water farm issue. The creation of a groundwater replenishment district that has subsidized growth in Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima Counties, the creation water bank to store unused Central Arizona Project water for times of drought, and a host of water conservation measures and water leases enabled by the passage of several tribal water rights settlements have set favorable conditions such that Scottsdale, Mesa, and Phoenix never had any reason to transport any water from their water farms. The legacy of these properties then is that they were the product of the intense urgency and uncertainty in urban planning premised on assumptions of growing populations and complementary, inelastic demand. But even as per capita water consumption has declined throughout the Phoenix-area, continued growth has increased demand, beyond the capacity of available supplies so that there will likely be a new push for rural water farms in the foreseeable future.

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2013

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Improvements in flood forecasting in mountain basins through a physically-based distributed model

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This doctoral thesis investigates the predictability characteristics of floods and flash floods by coupling high resolution precipitation products to a distributed hydrologic model. The research hypotheses are tested at multiple watersheds in the Colorado Front Range (CFR) undergoing warm-season precipitation.

This doctoral thesis investigates the predictability characteristics of floods and flash floods by coupling high resolution precipitation products to a distributed hydrologic model. The research hypotheses are tested at multiple watersheds in the Colorado Front Range (CFR) undergoing warm-season precipitation. Rainfall error structures are expected to propagate into hydrologic simulations with added uncertainties by model parameters and initial conditions. Specifically, the following science questions are addressed: (1) What is the utility of Quantitative Precipitation Estimates (QPE) for high resolution hydrologic forecasts in mountain watersheds of the CFR?, (2) How does the rainfall-reflectivity relation determine the magnitude of errors when radar observations are used for flood forecasts?, and (3) What are the spatiotemporal limits of flood forecasting in mountain basins when radar nowcasts are used into a distributed hydrological model?. The methodology consists of QPE evaluations at the site (i.e., rain gauge location), basin-average and regional scales, and Quantitative Precipitation Forecasts (QPF) assessment through regional grid-to-grid verification techniques and ensemble basin-averaged time series. The corresponding hydrologic responses that include outlet discharges, distributed runoff maps, and streamflow time series at internal channel locations, are used in light of observed and/or reference data to diagnose the suitability of fusing precipitation forecasts into a distributed model operating at multiple catchments. Results reveal that radar and multisensor QPEs lead to an improved hydrologic performance compared to simulations driven with rain gauge data only. In addition, hydrologic performances attained by satellite products preserve the fundamental properties of basin responses, including a simple scaling relation between the relative spatial variability of runoff and its magnitude. Overall, the spatial variations contained in gridded QPEs add value for warm-season flood forecasting in mountain basins, with sparse data even if those products contain some biases. These results are encouraging and open new avenues for forecasting in regions with limited access and sparse observations. Regional comparisons of different reflectivity -rainfall (Z-R) relations during three summer seasons, illustrated significant rainfall variability across the region. Consistently, hydrologic errors introduced by the distinct Z-R relations, are significant and proportional (in the log-log space) to errors in precipitation estimations and stream flow magnitude. The use of operational Z-R relations without prior calibration may lead to wrong estimation of precipitation, runoff magnitude and increased flood forecasting errors. This suggests that site-specific Z-R relations, prior to forecasting procedures, are desirable in complex terrain regions. Nowcasting experiments show the limits of flood forecasting and its dependence functions of lead time and basin scale. Across the majority of the basins, flood forecasting skill decays with lead time, but the functional relation depends on the interactions between watershed properties and rainfall characteristics. Both precipitation and flood forecasting skills are noticeably reduced for lead times greater than 30 minutes. Scale dependence of hydrologic forecasting errors demonstrates reduced predictability at intermediate-size basins, the typical scale of convective storm systems. Overall, the fusion of high resolution radar nowcasts and the convenient parallel capabilities of the distributed hydrologic model provide an efficient framework for generating accurate real-time flood forecasts suitable for operational environments.

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Date Created
2012

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Effluent-dominated waterways in the southwestern United States: advancing water policy through ecological analysis

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Over the past century in the southwestern United States human actions have altered hydrological processes that shape riparian ecosystems. One change, release of treated wastewater into waterways, has created perennial base flows and increased nutrient availability in ephemeral or intermittent

Over the past century in the southwestern United States human actions have altered hydrological processes that shape riparian ecosystems. One change, release of treated wastewater into waterways, has created perennial base flows and increased nutrient availability in ephemeral or intermittent channels. While there are benefits to utilizing treated wastewater for environmental flows, there are numerous unresolved ecohydrological issues regarding the efficacy of effluent to sustain groundwater-dependent riparian ecosystems. This research examined how nutrient-rich effluent, released into waterways with varying depths to groundwater, influences riparian plant community development. Statewide analysis of spatial and temporal patterns of effluent generation and release revealed that hydrogeomorphic setting significantly influences downstream riparian response. Approximately 70% of effluent released is into deep groundwater systems, which produced the lowest riparian development. A greenhouse study assessed how varying concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus, emulating levels in effluent, influenced plant community response. With increasing nitrogen concentrations, vegetation emerging from riparian seed banks had greater biomass, reduced species richness, and greater abundance of nitrophilic species. The effluent-dominated Santa Cruz River in southern Arizona, with a shallow groundwater upper reach and deep groundwater lower reach, served as a study river while the San Pedro River provided a control. Analysis revealed that woody species richness and composition were similar between the two systems. Hydric pioneers (Populus fremontii, Salix gooddingii) were dominant at perennial sites on both rivers. Nitrophilic species (Conium maculatum, Polygonum lapathifolium) dominated herbaceous plant communities and plant heights were greatest in effluent-dominated reaches. Riparian vegetation declined with increasing downstream distance in the upper Santa Cruz, while patterns in the lower Santa Cruz were confounded by additional downstream agricultural input and a channelized floodplain. There were distinct longitudinal and lateral shifts toward more xeric species with increasing downstream distance and increasing lateral distance from the low-flow channel. Patterns in the upper and lower Santa Cruz reaches indicate that water availability drives riparian vegetation outcomes below treatment facilities. Ultimately, this research informs decision processes and increases adaptive capacity for water resources policy and management through the integration of ecological data in decision frameworks regarding the release of effluent for environmental flows.

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Date Created
2011

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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 may outgrow supplies or outpace the capacity of the community

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