Resources - AWR Fall 2014

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Contesting Hidden Waters: Conflict Resolution for Groundwater and Aquifers

W. Todd Jarvis, Earthscan Water Text Series, Routledge, Abington (UK) and New York, 2014

In Contesting Hidden Waters, W. Todd Jarvis sets out a framework for approaching groundwater and aquifer governance in conflict situations and illustrates the use of this framework through detailed case histories. His goal is to promote the use of a transdisciplinary perspective on these situations; that is, to assemble a range of competencies and through joint activity arrive at a higher-order, more holistic conception of the issues. These competencies include not only knowledge of hydrogeological, economic and other technical fields, but also skills in communication, such as listening and diplomacy, and skills in morality and ethics, such as good judgment and confidentiality. These competencies are needed because problems related to groundwater and aquifers are “wicked” problems, or problems that are complex and dynamic, lack specific boundaries, and often defy solution.Wicked problems require negotiation for dispute prevention and conflict resolution.

A second goal of the book is to encourage the use of negotiation in disagreements over aquifers, where reference to science alone is often insufficient. A hydrogeologist of many years practice himself, he has learned from his experience that there is much more to aquifer management than hydrogeology. He argues for inclusion of local knowledge and respect for individual beliefs in problem solving activities. He advocates developing a sense among all the parties to disputes that “we are all in this together.” His message is sometimes obscured by the dense thicket of his prose, but case studies are presented in compelling detail, and application of his framework provides insight into these conflicts and an intriguing potential solution to some truly wicked problems.

Chasing Water: A Guide for Moving from Scarcity to Sustainability

Brian Richter, Island Press, Washington, Covelo (CA) and London, 2014

As an answer to increasing global water scarcity, Brian Richter, director of Global Freshwater Strategies for The Nature Conservancy, provides tools and principles for building a framework to sustain water supplies for people and ecosystems. He begins with water budgets and the need to understand how much use is sustainable within a water system. Using the analogy of a bank account, he explains water budget accounting and goes on to provide six tools to avoid water bankruptcy. Optimal use of these tools requires a balanced approach that considers social, economic and ecosystem values. How this optimality is accomplished is through a process of governance with input from governments, business, civil society and the people. Richter’s seven principles for sustainability carry this coalition from shared vision to adapting in response to lessons learned. As illustration he presents the case of the Murray-Darling River Basin in Australia, where implementation of the seven principles resulted in changes in law and practice that buffered the effects of severe drought and set the stage for a more sustainable future. He ends on a hopeful note with examples of individuals, non-governmental organizations and businesses taking the lead and working with governments to reduce water scarcity and restore river health. This readable and engaging book can serve as a valuable introduction to collaborative water stewardship.

Restoring Sacred Waters and Research Needs in the Colorado River

Restoring Sacred Waters: A Guide to Protecting Tribal Non-Consumptive Water Uses in the Colorado River Basin
Julia Nania and Julia Guarina, Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment, 2014

Research Needs in the Colorado River Basin: A Summary of Policy Related Topics to Explore Further in Support of Solution Oriented Decision Making
Colorado River Governance Initiative, University of Colorado, June 2014

Two new studies were released by the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment. Part of the Center’s Colorado River Governance Initiative, these studies contribute to the ongoing policy discussion concerning the uses of the Colorado River. The publication, Restoring Sacred Waters: A Guide to Protecting Tribal Non-Consumptive Water Uses in the Colorado River Basin, seeks to foster an understanding of the legal issues surrounding non-consumptive water uses, as well as specific strategies for achieving non-consumptive water use goals. The guide reviews strategies available to tribes and surveys potential legal and political hurdles. It also offers practical strategies on how to surmount these hurdles, which were derived from the work of experienced tribal attorneys and officials. Strategies in addition to use of Indian federal reserved rights are explored, including how federal environmental laws and conservation easements have been used to create additional flows in reservation streams. Research Needs in the Colorado River Basin is a synthesis of ideas gained from interviews and reports assessing the state of research since the release of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Colorado River Basin Study. Research requirements are identified for those areas in which additional progress is most needed to aid the policy discussions. Research is recommended that could improve the level of detail, frame existing research threads or address areas often omitted from investigations because of political sensitivities. This effort incorporates an assessment of the role that the academic community can play going forward in addressing unmet needs. All reports of the Colorado River Governance Initiative can be found at the Colorado River Information Portal:

Requiem for the Santa Cruz: An Environmental History of an Arizona River

Robert H. Webb, Julio L. Betancourt, R. Roy Johnson, and Raymond M. Turner, The University of Arizona Press, 2014

Those Tucson residents who arrived after 1970 will never have seen the Great Mesquite Forest on the Santa Cruz River south of Martinez Hill, because by then only dead stumps remained. Once a destination for bird watchers, it was a haven for tropical migratory birds and provided nesting habitat for more than 70 bird species. Mesquite trees as much as 75 feet tall, with trunks as large as 13 feet around, grew in a thicket that was probably almost 8 square miles in extent at its maximum. It boasted a richness of plant and animal species nearly unique in the region. What killed the Great Mesquite Forest? Wood cutting and agricultural clearing made in-roads, but the real cause was groundwater pumping, which drew the water table below the roots of even the largest trees. This story is the heart of the message that Webb and his colleagues convey in their natural history of the Santa Cruz River.

The result of 30 years of collaborative study, Requiem for the Santa Cruz is a work of comprehensive practical scholarship that encompasses what is known about the River from prehistoric times to the present. Every source of data and information has been mined to produce a book with the authority of a reference book and the appeal of a coffee table book. With language accessible to the lay reader, it provides detailed evidence on the state of the river, its past and its changes over the years, the reasons for those changes and their implications for the future. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, with authors expert in hydrology, plant ecology, geosciences and ornithology, the book documents the evolution of the river through arroyo downcutting, widening and filling, examining the potential causes that have been proposed through the years. The case is made that this evolution of the stream channel is a natural process that has occurred repeatedly on the Santa Cruz over millennia. Contrary to myth, they show that the river never flowed continuously, but was largely ephemeral with reaches where the geology supported a water table at or near the surface. Periodic floods raged down the river, creating new channel forms. Riparian ecosystems responded and adapted to the changes in recurring patterns until groundwater pumping in the 20th century left the river high and dry.

Today’s water managers face seemingly contradictory goals of water supply, flood control and river restoration. The authors trace the activities of humans in seeking to accomplish each of these goals and identify their effects on the river. Requiem for the Santa Cruz concludes that there will be no return of the Great Mesquite Forest. At best, flood control structures can be designed to allow for growth of riparian vegetation, which would have to be irrigated to survive.