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A system dynamics approach for looking at the human and environmental interactions of community-based irrigation systems

TitleA system dynamics approach for looking at the human and environmental interactions of community-based irrigation systems
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsOchoa, C, Tidwell, V
Conference NameAmerican Geophysical Union - Fall Meeting
Conference LocationSan Francisco, CA
Keywordscommunity-based, hydrology, irrigation, System dynamics

In the arid southwestern United States community water management systems have adapted to cope with climate variability and with socio-cultural and economic changes that have occurred since the establishment of these systems more than 300 years ago. In New Mexico, the community-based irrigation systems were established by Spanish settlers and have endured climate variability in the form of low levels of precipitation and have prevailed over important socio-political changes including the transfer of territory between Spain and Mexico, and between Mexico and the United States. Because of their inherent nature of integrating land and water use with society involvement these community-based systems have multiple and complex economic, ecological, and cultural interactions. Current urban population growth and more variable climate conditions are adding pressure to the survival of these systems. We are conducting a multi-disciplinary research project that focuses on characterizing these intrinsically complex human and natural interactions in three community-based irrigation systems in northern New Mexico. We are using a system dynamics approach to integrate different hydrological, ecological, socio-cultural and economic aspects of these three irrigation systems. Coupled with intensive field data collection, we are building a system dynamics model that will enable us to simulate important linkages and interactions between environmental and human elements occurring in each of these water management systems. We will test different climate variability and population growth scenarios and the expectation is that we will be able to identify critical tipping points of these systems. Results from this model can be used to inform policy recommendations relevant to the environment and to urban and agricultural land use planning in the arid southwestern United States.