Development of a Shared Vision for Groundwater Management to Protect and Sustain Baseflows of the Upper San Pedro River, Arizona, USA
2. The Upper San Pedro Basin
3. History of Collaborative Water Management in the Basin
“…managing [groundwater] in a way that can be maintained for an indefinite period of time, without causing unacceptable environmental, economic, or social consequences”.
5. Results and Conclusions
5.1. Lessons Learned
- Lesson 1: Engage decision makers and key stakeholders early in the process to define the science and technical tools needed for an integrated water management approach.These needs should be tailored explicitly to the existing conceptual models of key stakeholders, and the gaps in understanding, disagreements and/or misperceptions that they hold. This approach strengthens the foundation for shaping meaningful criteria for success, the formation of effective strategies, and the definition of meaningful desired outcomes. The Upper San Pedro provides an example of a stakeholder-driven process where project implementation was driven by an evolving science-based understanding of the system, and additional financial resources and political support were generated over time in response to an enhanced understanding and appreciation of the challenges and opportunities. As stakeholders progressively learned more about the system, they were also in a better position to make the case for generating additional public and private funding to support their efforts.
- Lesson 2: Collaboratively define desired outcomes as specifically as possible both temporally and spatially.The process of defining “sustainable yield” for the San Pedro is still underway more than 11 years after Congress mandated its implementation in the Subwatershed. By some measures, such as per-capita water consumption rates and managed aquifer recharge, efforts to mitigate the effects of groundwater pumping have been very successful. However, developing the predictive models to more specifically understand the response of the physical system allowed decision makers to recognize that, while their previous efforts would aid in slowing overall aquifer storage depletion, they would not necessarily protect the river from pumping-induced capture in shorter time frames (years to decades). Later efforts to initiate near-stream recharge arose from a better understanding of both the spatial and temporal aspects of the system, and strengthened the recognition that both short-term and long-term actions and effects were important.
- Lesson 3: Stakeholders with varied interests are more likely to work successfully toward a common goal if they feel that their individual interests are represented, and can actually benefit from the process.Challenging economic and legal contexts should not prevent diverse parties from working toward a solution if they perceive that their interests are represented in, and perhaps even benefit from a shared vision with other interests. Even though some objectives may seem to be competing (e.g., preserving reasonable depths to groundwater for water supply wells AND preserving baseflows in the river), finding a common thread among the parties—such as preservation of a vital economic driver for the region—can lead diverse parties to define and accept a mutually beneficial outcome. Once stakeholders recognize what outcomes of a solution might look like (such as baseflow supported by near-stream recharge), they may better reach consensus about how to achieve that proposed solution. For the San Pedro, the acknowledgement of all three aspects of sustainability—economic, social and environmental—helped to build trust, agreement and eventually support among interests. In addition, it opened conversations to the consideration of more specific objectives aimed at both the short- and long-term. The parties acknowledged that preserving flow in the river was the most immediate short-term concern, while also recognizing the need for longer-term efforts to maintain supplies at municipal pumping centers.
- Lesson 4: The importance of effective communication and two-way learning between scientists and decision makers cannot be overstated.While scientists and subject experts may recognize specific physical trends and processes in respect to hydrologic systems, other stakeholders may not agree on the nature or even the existence of them. Conversely, water managers and decision makers function within an operating environment that includes many dynamic political, financial, and legal factors that are not clear to scientists. Developing a shared understanding of these challenges as they relate to key water management decisions may take years. How do we help decision makers with little or no technical knowledge of complex groundwater hydrology understand that the pumping of half a century ago will manifest as declines in baseflow over the next half century? Even more problematic is trying to convince them to invest in expensive solutions to a crisis that—if the solution works—will never materialize. Accepting these hydrologic “mysteries” that are taking place in an invisible underground system they will never see requires a considerable leap of faith.The burden lies with both the scientific community and decision makers to invest the required time and effort communicating and learning about the environmental, social, and economic aspects of regional water management to be able to develop meaningful collaborative strategies together. The development of a set of specific criteria for meeting environmental, social, and economic needs as part of a shared vision of sustainable groundwater management is an essential first step toward the development of that understanding.
Conflicts of Interest
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Richter, H.E.; Gungle, B.; Lacher, L.J.; Turner, D.S.; Bushman, B.M. Development of a Shared Vision for Groundwater Management to Protect and Sustain Baseflows of the Upper San Pedro River, Arizona, USA. Water 2014, 6, 2519-2538. https://doi.org/10.3390/w6082519
Richter HE, Gungle B, Lacher LJ, Turner DS, Bushman BM. Development of a Shared Vision for Groundwater Management to Protect and Sustain Baseflows of the Upper San Pedro River, Arizona, USA. Water. 2014; 6(8):2519-2538. https://doi.org/10.3390/w6082519Chicago/Turabian Style
Richter, Holly E., Bruce Gungle, Laurel J. Lacher, Dale S. Turner, and Brooke M. Bushman. 2014. "Development of a Shared Vision for Groundwater Management to Protect and Sustain Baseflows of the Upper San Pedro River, Arizona, USA" Water 6, no. 8: 2519-2538. https://doi.org/10.3390/w6082519