NOAA, UA Study to Examine Links Between Border Growth, Natural Resources

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, has awarded a $300,000 grant to researchers at The University of Arizona to study climate, water resources and growth in urban and rural areas in southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico.

"The aim of our study is help water managers and emergency-preparedness planners use climate information to improve long-range planning for droughts, floods and the provision of adequate water supplies," said Margaret Wilder, deputy principal investigator of the project and an assistant professor of Latin American studies and geography and regional development at the UA.

"In doing so, we hope to increase the resilience of communities in the U.S.-Mexico border region to deal with the uncertainties of climate and water supplies," Wilder said.

The project will draw researchers from a range of disciplines from both countries to target four rapidly urbanizing "hotspots" within the region. Those include Tucson; the twin border cities of Nogales, Ariz., and Nogales, Son.; Hermosillo, the capital of the state of Sonora; and the burgeoning coastal resort town of Puerto Penasco, Son., including the area surrounding it.

"For each community, we will evaluate its plans to assure long-term water supplies and the vulnerability of that community, particularly areas at the urban-rural fringe, to changes in supply and demand," said Christopher Scott, the project's co-principal investigator and an assistant research professor of water resources policy at the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy and assistant professor of geography and regional development at the UA.

"We also will look at ways to regionalize 'adaptive' water management and planning and will prepare and distribute a periodic, binational, bilingual climate outlook appropriate for decision-makers," said Scott.

The project team comprises researchers from several UA units, including the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, the Center for Latin American Studies, the Institute for the Environment and Society, the department of geography and regional development and the department of agricultural and resource economics.

"An important aspect of this project is that it significantly involves several research teams from Mexico, namely the Mexican Water Technology Institute near Mexico City, the Colegio de Sonora and Universidad de Sonora, both in Hermosillo, and the Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education in Ensenada, Baja California, as well as the National Center for Atmospheric Research and NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory," said Robert Varady, the project's principal investigator and deputy director of the Udall Center, the project's administrative home.

The research grant comes from the NOAA Climate Office's new Sectoral Applications Research Program, which focuses on the intersections between climate issues and urban water management. The current NOAA grant complements another grant received in 2007 by the UA research team from the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research and builds on the outcomes of a four-year NOAA-funded project the team initiated in 2003.