Science and Binational Cooperation: Bidirectionality in the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program in the Arizona-Sonora Border Region

Authors: Jacob Petersen-Perlman*, East Carolina University, Tamee R. Albrecht, University of Arizona, Sharon B. Megdal, University of Arizona, Robert G. Varady, University of Arizona, Elia M. Tapia-Villasenor, Universidad de Sonora
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Political Geography
Keywords: water cooperation, transboundary aquifers, US-Mexico, groundwater
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Sharing scientific data and information is cited within academic literature as an initial step of water cooperation, but the transfer of research findings into policy and practice is often slow and inconsistent. Certain attributes — including salience, credibility, and legitimacy of scientific information; iterative information production; and sociocultural factors — may influence how easily scientific information can be used in management and policy-making. As transnationality further complicates these interactions, we argue that transboundary water cooperation and the production of scientific information build upon each other bidirectionally, each informing and enhancing the other. We employ a case study analysis of the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program (TAAP), a binational collaborative effort for scientific assessment of specified priority transboundary aquifers shared between Mexico and the United States. Here, information sharing was possible only by first completing a formal, jointly agreed-upon cooperative framework adopted by the International Boundary and Water Commission, resulting in a more collaborative process of science production that goes beyond mere information exchange. Following the publication of the TAAP’s first binational scientific report on the San Pedro Aquifer, we demonstrate the bidirectional relationship between science production and water governance in the TAAP and explore what challenges remain after scientific assessment.

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