Fate of the verde: Water, environmental conflict, and the politics of scale in Arizona's central highlands

Robert Bolin, Timothy Collins, Kate Darby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


This paper engages recent discussions about the politics of scale to examine emerging place-based conflicts over water resources in Arizona. Our focus is on the 14,247 sq km Verde River watershed in Arizona's Central Highlands, a region that contains the Prescott Active Management Area (PrAMA), one of five zones in the state in which groundwater is regulated by state law. Residents in the watershed depend almost exclusively on groundwater, a resource now being mined at rates in excess of recharge. A host of environmental issues - including threats to local water security and to the baseflow of one of the few remaining perennial streams in Arizona - have catalyzed a variety of civil society groups across the region in seeking to stop, control, or mitigate scaled impacts of rapid exurbanization and groundwater exploitation in the PrAMA. Based on in-depth interviews, public fora transcripts, government and civil society group documents, media accounts, and scientific reports, we examine competing discourses about water and scalar politics of key citizen groups, government actors, and development interests. Through this analysis, we examine the socio-spatial construction of claims and counter-claims of environmental harms of groundwater development. The paper contributes to recent discussions of scalar politics in geography by highlighting the importance of environmental governance disputes over water resources using a First World case study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1494-1511
Number of pages18
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Arizona
  • Environmental conflict
  • Groundwater
  • Political ecology
  • Politics of scale
  • Spatial fix

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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