Adjudication and the Adaptive Capacity of Pecan Farmers in the Lower Rio Grande

Authors: Daniel Beene*, University of New Mexico
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Geographic Information Science and Systems, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: water rights, adjudication, agriculture, adaptation, GIS, spatial modeling
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Governor's Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Despite growing uncertainty of water availability in the future and popular understandings of water conservation in agriculture, a growing number of farmers in the Lower Rio Grande in New Mexico are rapidly transitioning to pecan orchards, a long-term and highly water-dependent crop. Drivers of landscape change can be environmental, historic, socioeconomic, or institutional. Adaptation to change is understood as responses to external stimuli and is limited to a threshold by which an actor can meet their goals. Much of the current scholarship focuses on a given population’s adaptive capacity toward global climate change, however, most water policy in the western United States is part and parcel a response to burgeoning climate crises. By framing agrarian change in terms of the capacity to adapt to water policy, adjudication, and litigation, I explore what externalities and mechanisms of uncertainty influence agricultural management decisions. Using GIScience methods, I conduct a geostatistical analysis of the interplay between physical and institutional factors, spatial relationships, and cropping patterns. The analysis is evaluated based on qualitative surveys of farmers’ perceptions of the drivers of change. I argue that water adjudication has allowed large farming operations to move water rights more efficiently to respond to varied and dwindling surface water availability, permitting farmers to focus their adaptive measures on dynamic market pressures and availability of inexpensive labor rather than on the future of water that is threatened by ongoing litigation and severe drought conditions.

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