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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #364364

Research Project: Science and Technologies for the Sustainable Management of Western Rangeland Systems

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Vulnerability of acequia communities to climate change

item STEELE, CAITI - New Mexico State University
item Reyes, Julian Jon
item Elias, Emile

Submitted to: Universities Council on Water Resources
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/5/2019
Publication Date: 6/11/2019
Citation: Steele, C., Reyes, J.T., Elias, E.H. 2019. Vulnerability of acequia communities to climate change [abstract]. Universities Council on Water Resources 2019 Conference, June 11-13, 2019, Snowbird, Utah.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Vulnerability to climate change can be conceptualized either as an outcome resulting from biophysical changes to a system, or as a condition that already exists in a system and is subject to complex interactions between biophysical and human factors. Much of the research on agricultural systems in the U.S. has used the outcome vulnerability framework and focuses on producing technical, infrastructural, or policy-level solutions to climate change impacts. These types of assessment do not necessarily consider a community’s ability to apply these solutions. The alternative framework often applies the terms “contextual” or “starting point” vulnerability. Assessments using a contextual vulnerability framework incorporate biophysical, social, cultural, political, institutional and economic factors to define pre-existing vulnerabilities. Contextual vulnerability frameworks are well-suited for place-based research that seeks to formulate community-level responses to climate change impacts, especially where there are strong institutional factors to consider. In this paper, we first summarize the biophysical factors that acequia communities in Northern New Mexico will be exposed to under a changing climate, notably impacts on snowpack, water supply and the health of surrounding forests. We then review contextual vulnerabilities using a framework that draws on the five capitals model. Some of the key factors that reduce the vulnerability of acequia communities to climate impacts include the institutions associated with their community-based irrigation systems, and the social capital and “reciprocal interdependence” that acequia membership generates. Contemporary factors that increase acequia vulnerability include land use change, property-rights fragmentation and population decline.