Institutional Roles

Research Activities
Farmer’s Efforts in Water Conservation and the Institutional Constraints on Adaptation

Perspectives of Central Arizona Farmers on Water, Risk and Change in Agriculture Survey Website and Results

This research is part of a collaboration among researchers at Arizona State University and University of Arizona Cooperative Extension to examine how water policy affects Central Arizona farmers’ water management. This work is supported by a NOAA-SARP grant, as well as by the Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) at ASU.

Research Activities
Institutions—the rules, norms and shared strategies that shape human behavior – are critical to decision making because they both constrain and enable choices and influence the preferences of actors. Relatively little is known, however, about the effects of institutional structure on the receptiveness to adopt more flexible water policies for urban climate adaptation. Our team of researchers, including Hallie Eakin, Rimjhim Aggarwal, Abby York, and Amber Wutich use institutional analysis to study the capacity of urban governance systems to anticipate and adapt to a changing climate.

This year, we initiated a new line of research to examine agricultural water conservation and institutional constraints on adaptation. The agricultural sector uses as much as three-quarters of the water in Arizona; by all accounts, the future of agriculture is a critical issue for climate adaptation and water sustainability. Along with collaborators from University of Arizona Cooperative Extension and the Arizona Cotton Growers Association, Eakin, Aggarwal, and York are examining how water policy affects farmers’ engagement with adaptation to future scarcity. This work is supported by DCDC and leverages funding against a complementary NOAA-SARP grant. This research was presented in a poster at AAAS 2012 in Vancouver, BC and Adaptation 2012 in Tucson, AZ.

In another line of research that links DCDC and CAP LTER, anthropologist Amber Wutich continued her leadership on The Global Ethnohydrology Study (Wutich et al. in review a,b; Brewis et al. in review; Crona et al. in review). This is an interdisciplinary multi-year, multi-site study that examines the range of variation in local ecological knowledge of water issues, also known as “ethnohydrology.” The research was initiated in Phoenix with DCDC support. With additional leveraged resources, the project has expanded to examine cross-cultural understandings of water institutions, or the rules and norms used to distribute water, and water scarcity, including scarcity in relation to climate change. Research is now also being conducted in four ecologically, culturally and politically distinct world regions: tropical South America, North America, Europe and Oceania.

Research Findings
The Key Role of Institutions in Urban Climate Adaptation
Findings from institutional analysis of agricultural systems (Bausch, Conners, and Eakin 2012, AAAS) highlight the importance of a multilevel governance structure with decision makers at different levels with varied time horizons, perceptions and attitudes about climate change. Additionally, irrigation districts have emerged as key actors in anticipatory (adaptive) planning. The findings suggest that the Arizona Groundwater Management Act (GMA) and associated policies do little to encourage reduced water use. Rather, security of water rights and current access to CAP water mitigates farmers’ perception of, and concern with, climatic water stress. The research suggests that peri-urban farmers are adaptive and flexible in face of variable economic circumstances (e.g., via land leasing) but this sector may not respond to climate change and water scarcity in ways typically assumed by policy makers. Rather, signals of environmental change will be channeled through energy prices, infrastructure constraints, and water prices.

Research Projects and Teams

Farmer’s Efforts in Water Conservation and the Institutional Constraints on Adaptation
Arizona State University
Hallie Eakin
Rimjhim Aggarwal
Abigail York
Marty Anderies
Julia (Chrissie) Bausch, DCDC Graduate Research Assistant
Cathy Rubiños, Graduate Research Assistant

University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
Summer Waters, CFM, Extension Agent, Water Resources
Ayman Mostafa, PhD, Assistant Area Agent, Field Crops, IPM
Haley Paul, MA, Program Coordinator, Senior, ANR/Smartscape

The Global Ethnohydrology Project
Amber Wutich
Jose Rosales Chavez, DCDC Graduate Research Assistant