Collaborative Research: Sustainable Water Resources for Communities under Climate Change: Can State-of-the-Art Forecasting Inform Decision-Making in D

Project: Research project

Project Details


Intellectual Merit: Arid and semiarid regions may shoulder disproportional impacts of climate change due to the low resiliency and robustness inherent in both the natural and humaninfrastructure systems. One of the critical engineering systems threatened by climate change in these areas is water supply and its associated infrastructure. Imposing a warmer climate in a region of water scarcity may lead to unsustainable alternative future scenarios and further increase the complexity of water resources management. In this proposal, we intend to study decision-making for water resources management in anticipation of climate change in northern Mexico as a case study for the broader arid and semiarid southwestern North America. The goal of the proposed project is to determine whether water resources systems modeling, developed within a participatory framework, can contribute to the building of management strategies in a context of water scarcity, conflicting water uses and highly variable and changing climate conditions. Local stakeholders will be involved in guiding the design of supply- and demand-side management strategies and selection of climate change scenarios using state-of-the-art engineering tools. These tools include a water resources systems framework, a spatially-explicit hydrologic model, the use of forecasted climate scenarios under 21st century climate change, and observations obtained from field and satellite sensors. The participatory modeling approach will be conducted through a series of interactive workshops, carefully designed to encourage substantive participation from a broad range of stakeholders, including representatives from federal and local government agencies, water use sectors, non-governmental organizations, and academics. We will utilize the theory of planned behavior, which explains planned decisions, such as those made by water resource decision makers, as grounded in a suite of factors, including beliefs regarding risks, problems, and solutions. Through the theory of planned behavior, the participatory modeling process will be evaluated to understand if, and to what extent, the engineering tools are useful in the uncertain and politically-complex setting. Furthermore, the work will evaluate the sustainable outcomes emerging from the climate change scenarios and the potential adaptations that can be implemented in the decision-making process. Broader Impacts: The proposed work combines engineering research with social and behavioral sciences for the purpose of evaluating sustainable water management outcomes in a semiarid region in a developing country. This approach undoubtedly challenges participants to carry out transformative, interdisciplinary research. We will engage three doctoral level students at MTU and ASU as well as undergraduate students for short-term research experiences. A focus on recruiting Hispanic students (with language skills) will facilitate interactions with local decision makers, regional stakeholders and the general public. Our team will build on prior work at ASU and MTU in water research within Mexico and other developing countries. In particular, we will bring the expertise and experience of the ASU School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment and the MTU Center for Water and Society to bear on the problems of water supply under climate change threats. We will also work with several local universities in Sonora to develop an effective participatory modeling program. We expect that the results of this project will have an impact on water decision-making under climate change in the study area and provide a case study for replication in other data-sparse, semiarid regions.
Effective start/end date9/15/108/31/16


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $339,131.00


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