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A Lock-in Transboundary Water Management Regime: The Case Of The Rio Grande/bravo Basin

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Luzma Fabiola Nava, Samuel Sandoval-Solis
IIASA - International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis1, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources University of California, Davis2

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 12: Transboundary river basins and shared aquifers,
AbstractSubtheme: Transboundary river basins and shared aquifers -- the end of the conflict discourse? Case studies of transboundary management regimes: best practices and lessons learnt A lock-in Transboundary Water Management Regime: the case of the Rio Grande/Bravo Basin Luzma Fabiola Nava and Samuel Sandoval-Solis The study of the Rio Grande/Bravo (RGB) Basin water management demonstrates how the United States (US) and Mexico have consolidated a transboundary water regime based on groundwater sharing. Despite the lack of water management integration and common sustainable practices, both countries have succeeded in sharing groundwater resources in the past, but not for long. The transboundary water regime in RGB Basin is based on fixed groundwater extractions which do not allow adjusting for present human and environmental needs and potential future natural conditions for a sustainable river system. The aim of this paper is to discuss that despite the fact that the US -- Mexico water regime has given good results in terms of water allocation; the system is imperfect due to the lack of consideration of environmental, economic and socio-political aspects. Findings of this study are based on a qualitative interview study conducted with stakeholders in the RGB Basin and an analysis of historic water demands. Our sample included 54 respondents across the basin, they addressed a multitude of concerns in the context of environmental problems, fragmented water management, and citizen participation. This presentation elaborates on three key questions: (1) How the RGB water allocation regime can last with fixed water demands and without adapting to current changes in natural conditions? (2) What is the impact of this regime in the river ecosystem? (3) Does the RGB Basin water regime reflect a lock in situation that is blocking changes toward new water management practices? If so, how stakeholders can promote changes in the decision-making process? The situation of the RGB water regime can be explained through the concept of long-term predominance which results in a path-dependent process. This process helps to address sustained persistence and processes of institutions leading to a lock-in state. The RGB water regime needs major transformations, specifically in considering environmental, economical, and socio-political variables in groundwater management across the river basin. A list of recommendations to enhance and optimize current water management regime is presented with a discussion of possibilities of dissolving binational organizational paths. IIASA - International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis Laxenburg, Austria. E-mail: Schlossplatz 1 A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria Office: +43 2236/807 548 Department of Land, Air and Water Resources University of California, Davis Davis, California, United States. E-mail: 1 Shields Avenue, Dept. LAWR, PES 1111, Davis, CA 95616 Office: 135 Veihmeyer Hall Cell: (530) 750-9722; Office: (530) 754-9646 Website:
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