Water policy and value in the US Republican River basin

Authors: Jean Eichhorst*, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Water Resources and Hydrology, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: water, socio-hydrology, policy assessment, Republican River Compact, water management
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


People and society have commodified water through management practices driven by the physical environment, climate, and economics. Managing water for current and future productivity and sustainability is a crucial component of socio-ecological systems that depend on natural resources, or eco-system services. Further, the valuation of water can be seen as a political statement that symbolizes cooperation and competition among varied water users for different purposes. The 1943 US Republican River Compact between Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska serves as a water management case study within the context of irrigated agricultural development. Diverse factors and competing users impact the river’s water management within each of the states, who must maintain yearly legal compliance with the Compact. I examine the socio-hydrological relationships in the basin by contextualizing its history, environmental conditions, statutory policy assessment, and stakeholder perceptions. My results revealed 1, four themes that have ebbed and flowed in time and space; 2, that US federal statutory language plays a large role in management flexibility; and 3, that stakeholders are most concerned with equitable water allocations between users today and moving forward. Understanding these outcomes can help minimize future contentious and expensive legal conflicts that directly impact water management decisions and the socio-hydrological values for the Republican River basin’s water, its managers, and its users.

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