Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014AZ529B

Improving Integrated Surface Water and Groundwater Management in the United States: Case Studies of Innovative Groundwater Governance Approaches

Institute: Arizona
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $7,500 Total Non-Federal Funds: $10,096

Principal Investigators: Sharon Megdal, Andrea Gerlak, Robert Varady

Abstract: The proposed project investigates groundwater governance practices of the U.S. states in order to (1) assess the performance of these practices and (2) examine how they contribute to integrated surface/groundwater management. Groundwater is a critical component of the water supplies for agriculture, cities, industry, and ecosystems around the world. In the U.S., groundwater represents much of our potential future water supply. Water management is largely decentralized in the U.S., with each state maintaining significant authority and autonomy when addressing groundwater regulation and governance. As population growth, economic development, changing land-use patterns, and climate change stress existing water supplies, it is essential to identify ways to improve the ways we govern and manage groundwater. Better groundwater governance will indeed improve water management and enhance the nation’s water supply. Yet despite the importance of groundwater for all of the water using sectors in the U.S., there is currently no comprehensive compendium of information on groundwater governance in the U.S., and, consequently, no assessment and analysis of these practices. This project will build upon a pilot survey the project team has recently completed. The “Initial U.S. Groundwater Governance Survey” (Initial Survey) collected baseline, descriptive information on groundwater governance from nearly all states and the District of Columbia. The Initial Survey collected information from a state agency official for each state and has yielded important baseline information on groundwater governance across the U.S. The project will further analyze and map the results of the Initial Survey. It will also pursue in depth investigation of the laws and practices of three case studies characterized by innovative groundwater governance strategies that contribute to integrated surface/groundwater management to enable identification of best practices. The case study analysis will consider: groundwater governance practices, approaches, trends, and innovations; catalysts of and impediments to integration of groundwater and surface water management; outcomes associated with integrated surface/groundwater management; and obstacles and barriers to integration, as well as opportunities that could facilitate it.