Innovative science and influential policy dialogues for water security in the arid Americas (CRN 3056)


Project information

Christopher Scott (
University of Arizona, Estados Unidos
Nov 2014/ Oct 2017, USD 800,000
Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, USA

Project brief: Arid America: a challenge to guarantee water for society and environment

PDF en English and Spanish

Results Activities Outreach Investigators Students Executive summary

This project builds up on a previous IAI project: Towards an integrated assessment of water security under global change in the Americas (SGP-CRA 005)


This is a summary of the most salient project results. For further information see the project website, project papers or contact the investigators directly.

The team is engaged in collection and processing of hydro-bio-climatological data and models for Arizona (U.S.) and Sonora (Mexico); classifying land cover changes, estimating vegetation water use by NDVI; mapping at high resolution using a “hot/ cold” pixel evaluation to provide temperature, evapotranspiration, sensible heat flux, and vegetation indices.

In Chile, the biophysical monitoring is to be linked with social-institutional analyses, regional drought detection and understanding.

In Argentina, similarly no results are reported yet. A Climate Extreme Index for rural adaptability combining environmental exposure data with sensitivity indicators and adaptive capacity is being designed. A comparative analysis of land use change and water insecurity between the Mendoza and Tunuyán river basins is based on a review of bibliography and local case studies on land use, cover and water insecurity.

Critical productive sectors have been identified where producers’ vulnerability is determined by: actual extreme climate change; low profitability; reliance on technological efficiencies over other ways of adaptation; institutional fragmentation on management of soils, sources of water, and supply and demand of irrigation water; and deficiencies in the transfer of information about climate, water, markets and production.

In Mexico, secondary data were combined with semi-structured interviews of irrigation district farmers to provide information about land, crops, irrigation methods, and challenges related to a 26% reduction in water availability in the district’s reservoir system during the past 50 years and a further 20% loss in 2010-11.

A prolonged drought has reduced water in Rio Yaqui reservoirs by 24%, which irrigation district representatives attribute to climate change which has also reduced the ‘cold hours’ and thereby reduced wheat yields by up to 30 percent under a fungus invasion. Bad wheat crops are a driving the introduction of double cropping using groundwater. Higher temperatures further increase use of irrigation and reliance on decreasing groundwater.

To provide input to the World Water Council, a survey on water security in Arizona and Sonora was distributed to 102 respondents to address: variability (drought and flood), and adaptation to water insecurity including supply-demand balancing, equity/access and environmental flow requirements; infrastructure and management of reservoirs; adaptive management such as groundwater storage/recovery, water reuse, allocation, risk and insurance; legal frameworks, agency mandates and coordination, financing, institutional learning; and resilience to disturbances.

This showed that the most vulnerable producers depend on public policies to continue producing and living in the countryside. Increased water-use efficiency can cause new vulnerabilities and loss of resilience. Water is an opportunity for science-policy dialogues to reduce vulnerabilities. Climate change adaptation through “reasonable efficiency” can be improved through cultural and farming tasks without the need for large investments.


Francisco Meza highlighted the importance and consequences of climate change, CNN Chile, 22 September 2014

Francisco Meza addresses drought in Chile and El Niño, CNN Chile, 25 April 2014

Inter-network coordination for the generation of strategic knowledge. Addressing global environmental change from the social sciences

Directors: Paula Mussetta and Facundo Martin
Instituto de Ciencias Humanas, Sociales y Ambientales (INCIHUSA), Mendoza.

El avance de la interdisciplina en la ciencia del cambio ambiental global se ve obstaculizado entre otros factores- por la falta de desarrollos conceptuales que permitan formular los problemas de investigación de cambio global desde una perspectiva teórica integradora de las ciencias sociales y las naturales. El proyecto pretende contribuir a salvar ese déficit desarrollando un think-tank científico que articula una producción intelectual colectiva que revisa marcos conceptuales existentes y explora campos que habiliten abordajes innovadores, en búsqueda de una plataforma conceptual que -desde las ciencias sociales- robustezca las investigaciones interdisciplinarias sobre cambio ambiental global.

Project investigators

Christopher Scott (
University of Arizona, USA

Francisco J. Meza (
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile

Alfredo Ribeiro Neto (
Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Brazil

Facundo Damíán Martín García (

Paula Cecilia Mussetta (
CONICET, Argentina

Nicolás Pineda (

Rolando Enrique Díaz Caravantes (
El Colegio de Sonora, Mexico

Willem van Leeuwen (

Margaret Wilder (

Carl Bauer (

Robert Varady (
University of Arizona, USA.


America Lutz Ley, PHD, University of Arizona, Mexico
César Ferrer, PHD, INCIHUSA-CONICET, Argentina
Dolores Lettelier, Post Doctorate, INCIHUSA-CONICET, Argentina
Hernán González, PHD, INCIHUSA-CONICET, Argentina
Jorge Ivars, PHD, INCIHUSA-CONICET, Argentina
Lisa Huttenlocher, Undergraduate, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
Melanie Oertel, Doctorate, Germany
Robin Larsimont , PHD, INCIHUSA-CONICET,Belgium
Roy Petrakis , Master, American Geophysical Union, USA
Sophia Borgia , PHD, University of Arizona, USA
Tomás Manzur , PHD, INCIHUSA-CONICET, Argentina
Yulia Peralta , PHD, University of Arizona, Mexico.


Executive summary

With an emphasis on water security, this network of researchers and policymakers will address multiple uncertainties in hydroclimatic and land-cover variability, water-resource use, and institutional change. Its goal is to strengthen decision-making under uncertainty in five principal river basins (Maipo/CL, Mendoza/AR, Capibaribe/BR, Sonora/MX, and Santa Cruz/US), all of which experience urban-rural competition for water. This project will allow investigators to extend research, engagement, and lessons learned to five analogue basins (Elqui/CL, Tunuyán/AR, Pajeú/BR, Yaqui/MX, and San Bernardino/US). The analogues have been selected for temporal trends, spatial patterns, and water security/ competition gradients.

The investigators seek to answer the fundamental research question: how does hydroclimatic and land-cover variability intersect with institutional change to heighten or diminish vulnerability of water resources and their use by humans and ecosystems? They will develop an understanding of adaptation and resilience in a river-basin context. The iterative research and policy dialogue design is organized in three central tasks: 1) assessment and projection of environmental and human dynamics and their interrelations, 2) characterization of vulnerability, risk, and resilience in coupled systems terms, and 3) interactive identification of policy measures to enhance water security and adaptation.