Environmental flows in the Rio Grande - Rio Bravo basin

Sandoval-Solis, S., Paladino, S., Garza-Diaz, L.E., Nava, L.F. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4047-6006, Friedman, J.R., Ortiz-Partida, J.P., Plassin, S., Gomez-Quiroga, G., et al. (2022). Environmental flows in the Rio Grande - Rio Bravo basin. Ecology and Society 27 (1) e20. 10.5751/ES-12944-270120.

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The Rio Grande/Bravo is an arid river basin shared by the United States and Mexico, the fifth-longest river in North America, and home to more than 10.4 million people. By crossing landscapes and political boundaries, the Rio Grande/Bravo brings together cultures, societies, ecosystems, and economies, thereby forming a complex social-ecological system. The Rio Grande/Bravo supplies water for the human activities that take place within its territory. While there have been efforts to implement environmental flows (flows necessary to sustain riparian and aquatic ecosystems and human activities), a systematic and whole-basin analysis of these efforts that conceptualizes the Rio Grande/Bravo as a single, complex social-ecological system is missing. Our objective is to address this research and policy gap and shed light on challenges, opportunities, and success stories for implementing environmental flows in the Rio Grande/Bravo. We introduce the physical characteristics of the basin and summarize the environmental flows studies already done. We also describe its water governance framework and argue it is a distributed and nested governance system across multiple political jurisdictions and spatial scales. We describe the environmental flows legal framework and argue that the authority over different aspects of environmental flows is divided across different agencies and institutions. We discuss the prioritization of agricultural use within the governance structure without significant provisions for environmental flows. We introduce success stories for implementing environmental flows that include leasing of water rights or voluntary releases for environmental flow purposes, municipal ordinances to secure water for environmental flows, nongovernmental organizations representing the environment in decision-making processes, and acquiring water rights for environmental flows, among others initiatives. We conclude that environmental flows are possible and have been implemented but their implementation has not been systematic and permanent. There is an emerging whole-basin thinking among scientists, managers, and citizens that is helping find common-ground solutions to implementing environmental flows in the Rio Grande/Bravo basin.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: environmental flows, Rio Bravo, Rio Grande, social-ecological systems, transboundary basins
Research Programs: Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR)
Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR) > Water Security (WAT)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2022 08:34
Last Modified: 25 Feb 2022 08:34
URI: https://pure.iiasa.ac.at/17817

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