Facilitating Sustainable Use of the Rio Grande: A Social-Ecological Perspective
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The institutional structure underlying the management framework of the transboundary Rio Grande basin was examined to provide insight into the status and efficacy of the institutional controls that underlie management of the river. This analysis was undertaken in several steps. Changes in ecologically-important aspects of streamflow and changes in fish assemblages for four reaches of the river, governed by different water management policies and practices, were identified and evaluated. A historical profile of the basin was constructed to examine the structure and function of institutions governing water management, utilizing a complex adaptive systems perspective that considered the interplay of social processes and resulting ecosystem responses. The results included theoretical insights into how spatial and temporal scales can best be considered in a transboundary river system. The issues of conflict management and public participation were evaluated from an outcome-based perspective to identify opportunities to incorporate environmental needs into basin water management. A conceptual framework, based on dialog and deliberation, that considers cultural factors and which allows for multiple stages, multiple forums, and stakeholder control over decisions, is proposed. Institutional diagnostics also were used to perform a comparative analysis of management attributes for ten transboundary rivers around the world to identify management options that might be transferable to the Rio Grande basin. The insights from this research suggest three feasible options for more effective management of the transboundary Rio Grande basin for sustainable use, including (i) no modification to the current institutional structure, (ii) a modified institutional structure using the Minute system under the 1944 Treaty, and (iii) complete reconfiguration of the transboundary water management regime.