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Till the ground to see the clouds: governance challenges and groundwater demand in the San Pedro River transboundary aquifer and the American southwest

Agler, Robert (2018) Till the ground to see the clouds: governance challenges and groundwater demand in the San Pedro River transboundary aquifer and the American southwest. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh.

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Groundwater is a concern of public health significance often not discussed in the United States (US), because it has yet to make it into news reports and capture national attention. It is, however, a very real issue for populations living in already water-scarce environments like the American Southwest, which relies on aquifers for its freshwater supply. This study evaluates the classification of the binational San Pedro River Transboundary Aquifer (SPRTA), which is partially located in the US state of Arizona (AZ) and the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The evaluation includes a review of the literature related to international law and the transboundary nature of an aquifer, groundwater governance and management, and stakeholder engagement. While the SPRTA is shared between the US and Mexico, this study mostly focuses on the American side of the SPRTA, because an English translation of most resources provided by the Mexican government was not available; the international nature of the SPRTA, however, is not ignored. Criteria for determining a transboundary aquifer’s priority status for research was outlined under the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Act (TAAA), which the US Congress passed in 2006. Broad analysis focuses on groundwater demand by county, county population, and geologic features, such as earth fissures and land subsidence, in the US states of AZ, New Mexico (NM), and Texas (TX) to help evaluate the utilization of and impact on groundwater resources. Land subsidence and earth fissures in AZ are concentrated in Maricopa, Pinal, and Cochise Counties (Co.). In Cochise Co., farms overlay areas of land subsidence, which attributes groundwater overdraft to agricultural demand. This study identifies counties with the largest groundwater demand in AZ, NM, and TX by providing a spatial analysis of groundwater demand by county. Geologic features, like land subsidence and earth fissures, demonstrate groundwater overdraft in Cochise Co. Results showed just one AZ county (Maricopa Co.) accounted for 28-42% of total groundwater used per day in the state. By contrast, TX counties seldom consumed more than 1.4% of total groundwater per day, which could be attributed to the large number of counties in the state. The results of this study will help to promote better management practices of groundwater in the SPRTA and other transboundary aquifers in a top-down system, while considering satisfactory stakeholder engagement. This study concludes by recommending the Mesilla aquifer as the next priority transboundary aquifer to be studied by the International Boundary & Water Commission (IBWC) and both the US and Mexican governments.


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Item Type: Other Thesis, Dissertation, or Long Paper (Master's Thesis)
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Agler, Robertroa41@pitt.eduroa41
ContributionContributors NameEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairPeterson, Jamesjimmyp@pitt.eduUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Committee MemberThomas, Brianbfthomas@pitt.eduUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Centers: Other Centers, Institutes, Offices, or Units > Center for Environmental and Occupational Health
Date: July 2018
Date Type: Submission
Number of Pages: 41
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Environmental and Occupational Health
Degree: MPH - Master of Public Health
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: groundwater, aquifer, San Pedro River, Upper San Pedro River, San Pedro River transboundary aquifer, fragmented authority
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2018 14:33
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2018 14:33


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