Is there enough water? How bearish and bullish outlooks are linked to decision-maker perspectives on environmental flows

Journal of Environmental Management
By: , and 



Policies that mandate environmental flows (e-flows) can be powerful tools for freshwater conservation, but implementation of these policies faces many hurdles. To better understand these challenges, we explored two key questions: (1) What additional data are needed to implement e-flows? and (2) What are the major socio-political barriers to implementing e-flows? We surveyed water and natural resource decision makers in the semi-arid Red River basin, Texas-Oklahoma, USA, and used social network analysis to analyze their communication patterns. Most respondents agreed that e-flows can provide important benefits and identified the same data needs. However, respondents sharply in their beliefs on other issues, and a clustering analysis revealed two distinct groups of decision makers. One cluster of decision makers tended to be bearish, or pessimistic, and believed that: current flow conditions are not adequate, there are many serious socio-political barriers to implementation, water conflicts will likely increase in the future, and climate change is likely to exacerbate these issues. The other cluster of respondents was bullish, or optimistic: they foresaw fewer future water conflicts and fewer socio-political barriers to implementation. Despite these differences, both clusters largely identified the same data needs and barriers to e-flows implementation. Our social network analysis revealed that the frequency of communication between clusters was not significantly different than the frequency of communication within clusters. Overall, our results suggest that the different perspectives of decision-makers could complicate efforts to implement e-flows and proactively plan for climate change. However, there are opportunities for collaboration on addressing common data needs and barriers to implementation. Overall, our study provides a key socio-environmental perspective on e-flows implementation from a semi-arid and socio-politically complex river basin and contextualizes the many challenges facing e-flows implementation in river basins globally.

    Publication type Article
    Publication Subtype Journal Article
    Title Is there enough water? How bearish and bullish outlooks are linked to decision-maker perspectives on environmental flows
    Series title Journal of Environmental Management
    DOI 10.1016/j.jenvman.2020.111694
    Volume 280
    Year Published 2021
    Language English
    Publisher Elsevier
    Contributing office(s) National Climate Adaptation Science Center
    Description 111694, 12 p.
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