Water Decisions for Sustainability: Drought and Risk in South-Central Oklahoma
To address these issues, this project is taking an integrated interdisciplinary approach to understand drought risks as well as water management decisions that could support the sustainability of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer. Our research asked: How do stakeholders in the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer perceive drought risks across weather and climate scales, and how do these perceptions guide water management decisions given (i) diverse cultural beliefs, (ii) valued hydrologic services, (iii) past drought experience, and (iv) uncertainties in future projections of precipitation, temperature, and drought? We used ethnographic methods to diagnose how cultural values and beliefs inform stakeholders' risk perceptions, and how this in turn guides decision making or ignites conflict across different sectors and stakeholder groups. Further, stakeholders' characterizations of drought risk was examined in the context of historic meteorological and hydrologic events, as well as climate variability and change. This approach helped us to identify which risks are prioritized, and under what conditions, in regional water management decision making or water-related conflicts.
Findings will contribute to understanding local perspectives and drivers which is important for sustainable management of the aquifer according to theories of successful governance of common pool resources such as groundwater in Oklahoma. The study is relevant beyond the field site as a novel interdisciplinary approach to understanding weather and climate risk.