Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2013AZ513B

Discrimination-Inference to Reduce Expected Cost Technique (DIRECT): A new framework for water management and stakeholder negotiation

Institute: Arizona
Year Established: 2013 Start Date: 2013-03-01 End Date: 2014-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $9,024 Total Non-Federal Funds: $18,067

Principal Investigators: Paul Ferre

Abstract: Water scarcity in the Southwestern United States has led to water resource disputes among stakeholders. Two factors confound resolution of disputes and effective management of scarce water resources. First, the availability of groundwater and, more so, its responses to anthropogenic and natural stresses are not perfectly understood. This is largely due to insufficient existing hydrogeologic data, leading to uncertainties concerning future hydrologic conditions. Second, market and non-market values of water are difficult to quantify. This difficulty can be especially limiting when multiple stakeholders consider the same resource from widely differing perspectives. These confounding factors are often analyzed independently by hydrologists and resource economists, respectively. Yet, these factors are clearly closely linked. In particular, there is much potential benefit in identifying the sources of, and quantifying, scientific uncertainty and then relating these uncertainties to value for all interested parties. We contend that there is a real opportunity for maximizing the value of water resources while minimizing unnecessary conflict through the development of an integrated framework that jointly considers hydrologic science, data collection, and economic valuation. We propose to continue to develop and to test a novel approach to identify valuable hydrologic measurements and to support water management decision-making under uncertainty. We refer to the approach as Discrimination-Inference to Reduce Expected Cost Technique (DIRECT). DIRECT uses multiple models to quantify uncertainty in future hydrologic conditions, and economic cost models to quantify the risk associated with water resource scarcity. DIRECT uses measurement optimization techniques to select hydrologic data best suited to reduce uncertainty with the express purpose of reducing expected costs. The proposed project will leverage ongoing collaborative work with the Desert Rivers Initiative (DRI) of the Arizona Land and Water Trust (ALWT) to develop market-based tools for water conservation in sensitive riparian areas. Our proposed work includes three components. First, we will describe market and non-market valuation techniques suitable to quantify the economic effects of hydrologic changes in the basins where ALWT is currently pursuing water conservation agreements. Second, we will develop a set of computer-based tools capable of linking multiple hydrologic models to economic cost models and providing easy-to-interpret visualizations that stakeholders can use to understand the risks involved with scientific uncertainty and the potential benefits from improved hydrologic data collection. Finally, we will apply DIRECT at an existing ALWT site, identifying hydrologic data needed to reduce prediction uncertainty, and economic data needed to formulate site-specific cost functions. We will then work with the ALWT to communicate our finidings in educational outreach and stakeholder negotiations and to identify further funding opportunities for related work. This proposed work targets the WRRA research objectives of addressing issues of water yield and water reliability, and assessment of management practices. If funded, this project would provide scientific support to the ALWT. We would also use this project to develop initial research results that would form the basis for proposals for further external funding through the EPA, NSF, and DOE.