1 Water Resource Management & Climate Variability Possibilities for Transboundary Knowledge Transfer on the US-Mexico Border Prepared for presentation at the Open Meeting of the Global Environmental Change Research Community, Montreal, Canada, October, 2003 Barbara J. Morehouse Institute for the Study of Planet Earth University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ USA This presentation is based on work funded by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration s Office of Global Programs, and by the Dialogue on Water and Climate program, located in Delft, The Netherlands.
2 Rivers of the US-Mexico Border The US-Mexico border region is characterized by semi-arid to arid conditions. Few surface water sources exist. The main sources of surface water are the two transboundary river systems, the Colorado River and Rio Grande/Rio Bravo. Complex international agreements govern rights to these waters. In addition, significant transboundary aquifers exist in some regions. Here, however, governance of water resources is virtually non-existent. Development and communication of information, tailored to the border region, about climate variability and change is needed. Water resource management and use constitutes one of the more promising areas for cross-border development, dissemination, and use of climate information. Recent experience with spatially and temporally extensive drought, entwined economic production and consumption dynamics that rely on shared water resources, and with complex legal institutions governing water, can facilitate the building transboundary decision support capacity. Underlying these interactions are the transboundary hydrologic patterns and processes that support both the human and natural systems of the region.
3 Cities on the US-Mexico Border The transboundary area encompassing the southeastern United States and northwestern border area of Mexico is 3100 kilometers long and officially recognized as 100km wide on each side of the border. There are more than 11.8 million people living on the border today; estimates place the 2020 population at 19.4 million. Ninety percent of this population is concentrated in 14 interdependent twin cities that span the boundary. The rapid growth experienced in the cities on the Mexican side of the border has resulted in numerous challenges, including unplanned development, increased demand for land, energy, and water resources, greater traffic congestion, increased production of waste that strains already-inadequate waste treatment facilities, and other pressures Capacity to respond effectively to climatic stress in the transboundary context requires a long-term commitment to education, capacity building, and support for development of needed infrastructure and services. These factors can be enhanced by ability to draw on considerable reservoirs of social capital. For example, there are longstanding close economic and cultural connections between the Mexican state of Sonora and the US state of Arizona, which provide opportunities for assessing and responding to climate impacts in the binational area, and for developing and disseminating climate information designed to facilitate decision making and management in the face of climatic variability and change. Public-private partnerships established to promote water infrastructure development in Texas and New Mexico border-area colonias also highlight the possibility of improving conditions for marginalized residents through carefully focused collaboration [i] The Arizona-Mexico Commission, and its Mexican counterpart, the Comisión Sonora-Arizona provides a forum for collaboration among the two states on economic development. More generally, close ties among Mexican and Mexican-American residents on both sides of the Arizona-Sonora border sustain cultural linkages, educational exchanges, and sharing of knowledge and expertise. Border health initiatives also reinforce close ties. one of the most important drivers of socioeconomic change in the US-Mexico border region, and related changes in water management structures and practices, is the Mexican federal government s
4 Climate forecasting remains a federal-level responsibility in Mexico, however, and continues to manifest overtones of national sovereignty and related desire to control information flows. The concentration of climate forecasting in Mexico City is considered by border residents to be problematical, in that the information provided tends to be not very useful for their area, and is certainly not specifically tailored to their needs. Mexican border residents, in fact, tend to refer most often to US climate forecasts. On the US side, official climate forecasts are also produced in the federal capital of Washington DC, by NOAA s Climate Prediction Center. Local weather data, forecasts, and some climate forecast services are offered by locally sited National Weather Service offices. In addition, unofficial forecasts for the United States are produced by a variety of laboratories and research institutions (including those funded under the RISA program), and the International Research Institute (IRI) produces forecasts covering countries around the world. IRI climate forecasts are among the few types of information about climate that regularly span the US- Mexico (and US-Canada) border. However, the coarse scale of the information reduces its usefulness of the forecast at local border-area levels. Recently, binational drought monitor information spanning the US-Mexico border has been introduced. Information such as this has already proven useful in binational interactions concerning drought and the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo. On both sides of the border, information about past, current, and future climate impacts on water resources is essential to decision making in all border cities where economic, industrial, and urban growth are inextricably entwined. Such information is essential only to evaluate the sufficiency water supplies for critical uses, but also to assure the water is available when and where it is needed, and that the burden of water shortages are equitably shared.
5 July 2003 CANADA: Streams in the southern interior of British Columbia were experiencing very low flow conditions by the end of July. For some of the streams monitored by the BC River Forecast Centre, the current flow conditions were the lowest flow recorded in 50+ years of record and are unprecedented. Rains have generally been spotty through the Canadian Prairies during much of July, as spring seeded crops used much of the remaining moisture in the ground. Crop conditions were variable but moisture stress is widespread in all three provinces. Hot temperatures were adding to the stress on crops that were looking good a few weeks prior. UNITED STATES: July 2003 was warmer than average for the contiguous United States, ranking as 12 th warmest and 45 th driest nationally. However, the contrast between the excessive rainfall in the East and the lack of precipitation in the West belied this ranking. Idaho had the warmest July, statewide, in its 109-year record and New Mexico had the driest July. As for the changes to the drought regions during the month, several areas in the West became significantly worse, ranging from moderate to exceptional drought. A large area of moderate drought (D1) was added to the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, and Idaho), and several exceptional drought (D4) areas popped up in parts of Idaho and along the northern borders of Nevada and Utah. Moderate drought (D1) expanded into much of the central and southern Great Plains during July. MEXICO: Drought conditions in July improved over some parts of northern Mexico, deteriorated over parts of the south, and remained generally unchanged from June over many other areas. In northern Mexico, improvement occurred over Coahuila, the northern part of Nuevo León and Tamaulipas, partially due to Tropical Storm Claudette. Conditions also improved in northern Sonora and in southern portions of the state and northern Sinaloa with the contraction of the exceptional drought D4 area. Above normal rainfall along the Gulf Coast resulted in improvement over parts of Tamaluipas and Vera Cruz. Dry weather occurred in southern Mexico, where reports of below normal stream flows and dam levels were noted. Abnormal dryness D0 expanded into parts of Quintana Roo, and moderate drought D1 expanded into Tobasco and Chiapas. Abnormal dryness D0 was introduced into coastal sections from southern Sinaloa into Guerrero, where less than 75% of the normal July precipitation fell. The experimental North American Drought Monitor, which has only recently begun being produced in the US, includes a commentary page. Note that the page is only in English.
6 Additional information about drought trends may also be found on the Drought Monitor web site. However, obtaining the information requires access to a computer and to the Web.
7 Nogales, Sonora has produced a web site that gives climate forecast information. (The web site for Nogales, Arizona does not provide this information.)
8 TENDENCIAS CLIMATICAS PARA ESTE VERANO: Como ya es del dominio público, ahora se sabe que el clima en una región del Globo Terrestre durante una temporada, depende en gran parte de si se presentan o no los fenómenos del NIÑO o la NIÑA. En ésto radica la importancia de determinar el comportamiento de la temperatura del Océano Pacífico (ver arriba los mapas para relacionar la temperatura con estos fenómenos). Ahora bien, como se muestra en los mapas anteriores, las condiciones cálidas del NIÑO se han disipado rápidamente en el Pacífico tropical durante la primavera del Por otro lado, las últimas estadísticas y modelos indican una considerable incertidumbre para los próximos meses, aunque parece ser que no se desarrollará LA NIÑA. Lo anterior nos indica que se presentarán temperaturas por encima de lo normal durante los meses de Julio a Octubre, para la región del noroeste mexicano y suroeste estadounidense. En cuanto a precipitación, igualmente existe una gran incertidumbre, que también apunta a condiciones normales de precipitación. Esto es extremadamente grave, ya que la sequía que se padece en la región dura ya desde 1993, y ahora es cuando se requiere de precipitaciones mayores a lo normal. En los mapas de abajo se muestran los pronósticos de temperatura y de precipitación para la temporada de lluvias veraniegas del Note that, on the Nogales, Sonora web site we finally see some commentary discussing the forecasts is in Spanish.
9 This is the map shown on the Nogales, Sonora web site. Note that this is a forecast produced by the Climate Prediction Center, which is located within the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Note also that the map is in English.
10 This map showing the temperature outlook for October, November and December 2003, like the previous one which gives the outlook for the same time period for precipitation, is produced by NOAA s Climate Prediction Center. Lack of information for Mexico and Canada limits the utility of products like this for stakeholders who must consider transboundary and continental-scale climate conditions.
11 PRONOSTICOS DE TEMPERATURA A LARGO PLAZO AGOSTO A SEPTIEMBRE, 2003 Pronósticos de TEMPERATURAS de largo plazo (Climate Prediction Center, NOAA). El color CAFE a ROJO indica probabilidad de mayor TEMPERATURA que la normal. El color BLANCO indica TEMPERATURAS normales. EN RESUMEN, PARA LA REGIÓN ALEDAÑA A NOGALES: TODO ESTE VERANO: TEMPERATURA MÁS CALUROSA QUE LO NORMAL PRONÓSTICOS DE PRECIPITACIÓN A LARGO PLAZO Pronósticos de PRECIPITACIÓN de largo plazo (Climate Prediction Center, NOAA). El color VERDE indica probabilidad de mayor PRECIPITACIÓN que la normal. El color BLANCO indica PRECIPITACIONES normales. El color CAFE indica PRECIPITACIONES por debajo de lo normal. EN RESUMEN, PARA LA REGIÓN ALEDAÑA A NOGALES: ESTE VERANO, JULIO A SEPTIEMBRE: PROBABLEMENTE PRECIPITACIÓN NORMAL, AUNQUE LAS LLUVIAS SE DEMORARAN ALGO PARA INCIAR. This slide shows a Spanish interpretation of the forecast shown in the previous slide. Note that this forecast was already out of date at the time I accessed it.
12 San Pedro River Photo by Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity Much more can be done to provide useful, usable, timely, and relevant information for the US- Mexico border. Whether the task is preserving valuable waterways and habitat, such as the transboundary San Pedro River, or transforming border tension into transboundary collaboration to manage shared and scarce water resources, building a transboundary climate communication capability, with products tailored to the needs of residents who need the information, is very important. Not everything can be communicated solely on the Web; information crucial to sectors of the population who are not connected must be made accessible through alternative means of dissemination. One mechanism is to focus initial efforts on early adopters of climate information, including those who are already experienced in interacting with scientists and scientific information, and individuals who serve as information brokers. Taking action now to build a locally informed, scientifically robust knowledge exchange infrastructure is essential. When the trends showing increases in costs of impacts from severe and extreme climatic conditions is factored into the analysis, the project becomes even more urgent. Neoliberal reforms in Mexican land tenure and water management institutions, and related trends in water privatization in the United States benefit some but increase the vulnerability of others. Likewise, innovations in scientific knowledge transfer and application that respond exclusively to the needs of big capital and big politics can multiply the stresses borne by politically, economically, and educationally marginalized populations. Some of these stresses may be averted by assuring that entities responsible for liaising between science and the public have access to the necessary information and the capacity to interpret the information for their clientele. It would behoove the governments of the two countries, and key nongovernmental sources of funding, to make a long-term commitment to regional climate impacts science and assessment and to working together to find ways to overcome barriers such as sovereignty issues, insufficient funding, lack of widespread integration of stakeholders into the enterprise, and lack of capacity among the public to interpret and/or use climate information.