Securing a climate resilient water future for agriculture and ecosystems through innovations in measurement, management, and markets is an innovative team of stakeholders, educators, and scientists working together

To achieve climate change adaptation in western agriculture and ecosystems, we need better information and flexible institutions for our most precious resource—WATER.

This program delivers novel tools and techniques for a water stressed region, enabling thriving agriculture, healthy ecosystems, and community resilience in an uncertain climate future from the field to regional scales.

Project Goals: To understand, to enable, and to envision water management strategies empowered through data-enabled decision-making.

By bringing together hydroeconomic and life-cycle assessment with localized water accounting and regional climate projections, the project goal is to evaluate and to enable water trading for climate resilience in agricultural and ecological systems in the Southwestern US.

Securing a climate resilient water future rests on decisions informed by climate data coupled with regional and localized accurate measurements, novel management practices, and well-designed markets, banking and other water storage and tranfer systems. Focused transdisciplinary activities will integrate research, extension, and education across three testbeds in each unique socio-economic and political area:

  • Cache Valley, UT
  • San Joaquin Valley, CA
  • Mesilla Valley, NM

Throughout the process workshops, field days, and educational tools will actively engage stakeholders in achieving sustainability in water scarce regions.

Extension

With Extension as the primary focus, we engage USDA Southwest Climate Hub expertise and the extension-grower networks of each state’s university outreach system to ADOPT new technologies and practices, ADAPT to local situations, and AMPLIFY what works.

Our stakeholders: The transdisciplinary project team will work with land and water managers, growers, irrigation districts, and ecosystem managers to develop climate resilience strategies. With decades of experience in irrigation, climate science and each commodity, the Extension team will facilitate whole-project integration through a Day-One Needs Assessment, keep connection with innovation leaders, and share all program findings through both informal education and formal communications.

Our Approach to Research

The SWIM team is focused on four research thrusts:
  • Climate Resilience: Developing climate services for data-driven decisions.
  • Markets: Research and practice on water markets through economics and institutions.
  • Management: Evaluate novel management strategies to secure water.
  • Measurement: Improve accuracy and reduce uncertainty in water budgets.

Climate Resilience



The climate resilience thrust will examine three research questions:
  • To what extent will changes in the characteristics of multi-year droughts over this century alter the willingness to engage in water trading and banking as part of climate resilience efforts?
  • Can drought early warning systems propel action by stakeholders for water trading?
  • How can ecosystem services be maintained while adapting agricultural water management to anticipated hydrologic extremes?

Researchers: Abatzoglou, Babbitt, Santos, Viers


Markets

The markets thrust will examine three research questions:
  • How does institutional context affect the viability of and potential for water markets to enhance climate resilience for agriculture and ecosystems?
  • What are the key drivers and barriers for (a) the adoption of water markets as a policy instrument and (b) growers’ participation in water markets? How can new data and platforms reduce transaction costs and barriers to entry?
  • How can estimates of the potential benefits and impacts of water markets better account for institutional context, scale dependency, temporal considerations, and the diversity of interests in resilient water and environmental systems?

Researchers: Ayres, Bruno, Escriva-Bou, Green Nylen, Hanak, Kiparsky, Medellín-Azuara, Thayer


Management



The water management thrust addresses three questions:
  • How can climate change impacts be managed through aquifer recharge, water trading, and land use planning to sustain agriculture and the environment?
  • How might water banking offer a flexible, adaptive, and comprehensive approach to agricultural and environmental water management?
  • Can short-term decision-making be informed through modeled outcomes of long-term system responses?

Researchers: Dahlke, Fernald, Fogg, Null, Rosenberg


Measurement

The measurement thrust will examine three research questions:
  • Do existing systems support water accounting needs to enable water trading?
  • How does uncertainty in water accounting affect water trading?
  • What are the full life-cycle impacts of cropping choices, managed aquifer recharge, and water banking on water trading?

Researchers: Bawazir, Ghezzehei, Harmon, Naughton, Sabie, Torres-Rua

Education

At the heart of our program are transformational K-12 educational tools. Educators and graduate students will develop curricular materials for a STEAM pipeline from 4H and rural middle schools to STEAM teachers serving underrepresented groups. Exciting games support computational thinking and decision-making while the content retains students in agricultural fields and place-based learning.

Through project-based learning and real-world applications, graduate students will be trained as the next generation of transdisciplinary practitioners versed in climate adaptation science, communications, and complex systems problem solving.