1.4 Co-Production and Fragmentation: How Stakeholder Engagement Evolved in the Study of Drought and the Environment along the Rio Grande/Bravo

Monday, 8 January 2018: 9:30 AM
Ballroom F (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Jack R. Friedman, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; and S. Paladino

Reporting on a two-year ethnographic project that examined how water managers, water decision-makers, and stakeholders along the Rio Grande/Bravo – from Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and northern/northeastern Mexico – manage water in the face of recurring droughts, this talk describes the challenges facing efforts to co-produce knowledge and actionable solutions in a context in which decision making and perception of resources are viewed as contentious. This talk will argue that there are often unexpected problems when attempting coproduce knowledge associated with disparate priorities, values, and socioeconomics among a population of “stakeholders” - differences that not only challenge the efficacy of coproduction efforts, but, also, challenges the fundamental value of the concept of stakeholders. In addition, spatial incongruities between the people with whom one is working to coproduce knowledge and the geography of challenges and vulnerabilities can complicate efforts because basic definitions of problems might not be shared.

The Rio Grande/Bravo basin is a system that is regularly stressed by challenging meteorological conditions - droughts and flooding being the greatest threats to lives and property. When parts of the river are stressed, those stressors are regularly transferred from one reach to another, having a cascading effect that is only mitigated by a number of man made reservoirs and dams meant to reduce downstream impacts of weather and climate extremes. However, because the system is so stressed - but, also, stressed in different ways at different times and affecting different people and systems (e.g., agricultural, municipal, ecological) - the meaning of these stressors, the proposed solutions to these problems, and the cause of (or blame for) these stressors are rarely shared across different populations. Instead, profound fragmentation across the RGB basin contributes to situations where co-production of knowledge related to problems at the intersection of humans, geography, and weather/climate stressors often produce fragmented understandings of “how to fix” problems within the system.

Results will draw on over 100 in-depth interviews and 15 months of in situ fieldwork conducted by the authors as they sought to learn about shared aspects of and differences between perceptions of drought/flood risks, vulnerabilities, and costs among water managers (municipalities, irrigation districts, federal land managers, international water control managers, tribal representatives, large-scale ranchers and farmers, and other stakeholders and NGOs) throughout the Rio Grande basin.

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner