Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2020ID161B

Multi-Criteria Stakeholder Analysis Framework for Western United States Irrigation Modernization

Institute: Idaho
Year Established: 2020 Start Date: 2020-03-01 End Date: 2021-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $14,961 Total Non-Federal Funds: $29,924

Principal Investigators: Thomas Ptak

Abstract: Significant areas across the Western United States are reliant on irrigation in order to grow crops and provide pasture for livestock. These areas reflect approximately 40 million acres of land and generate almost $97 billion to economies at various scales through agricultural production. In order to sustain both the significant economic impacts and livelihoods of numerous communities engaged in agriculture, two main challenges must be anticipated and addressed. First; while many uncertainties permeate discourse and future scenarios under human-induced climate change, water scarcity is widely projected to continue—and likely increase—across many parts of the Western United States. Moreover, a substantial percentage of irrigated water is transported through antiquated systems, which require significant maintenance as they continue approaching obsolescence. In order to enhance resilience for changing climatic conditions while also mitigating numerous social, economic, environmental and political vulnerabilities, the modernization of irrigation systems must continue. Irrigation modernization stands to increase water supply reliability and delivery, generate and conserve energy, improve water quality, better protect fish and other aquatic species while generating economic development across agricultural areas.While there is a well-developed body of research investigating irrigation modernization efforts across the Western United States, technical dimensions reflect the main focus. Consequently, advances in technical dimensions (although necessary) have come at the expense of developing adequate understanding of social complexities. If challenges related to scarcity under changing climatic conditions are to be overcome, more attention needs to be paid to the complexities underpinning social circumstances, as their ability to hinder or advance technical innovations are significant.In order to advance this under researched field, the primary objective of this research is to develop a multi-criteria stakeholder analysis framework to help better understand social barriers for irrigation modernization across Idaho and the Inland Pacific Northwest. It is anticipated the collaborative research will help inform and advance the broader transition toward irrigation modernization across the Western United States.The research is centered around the investigation of two research questions:1: What are the most pervasive social barriers to stakeholders for adopting irrigation modernization in the Western United States?2: How can multi-criteria stakeholder analysis frameworks be applied to better understand and mitigate social barriers and advance irrigation modernization?