UA, Partners Launch Water Security Center for the Americas
AQUASEC will provide institutional support and linkages for the growing networks of researchers, decision-makers and other stakeholders concerned with climate risk and water security in the Americas.

By Rebecca Ruiz-McGill, University Communications
May 29, 2012

AQUASEC, a new inter-American center of excellence on water security and policy outreach, has been launched by researchers at the University of Arizona and research and policy partners from Mexico and Chile. 

The new center, created under the auspices of the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research, or IAI, will be jointly hosted by the UA's Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy and the Center for Global Change at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago.

AQUASEC will provide institutional support and linkages for the growing networks of researchers, decision-makers and other stakeholders concerned with climate risk and water security in the Americas.

The co-directors of AQUASEC are Christopher A. Scott, associate professor at the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy and in the School of Geography and Development, and Francisco J. Meza, an associate professor of natural resources at the Pontifical Catholic University.

The directors announced the creation of the center during a presentation before the International Conference on Climate Adaptation being held in Tucson.

"The aim of AQUASEC is to synthesize and generate knowledge on water, climate, energy, environment and adaptation in arid and semi-arid regions of the Americas," said Scott.

"We also want to engage water resources stakeholders, especially in the American Southwest, northern Mexico, north-central Chile and Argentina, and northeastern Brazil, in our research and in a series of science-policy dialogues aiming to strengthen adaptation initiatives," said Scott.

This will involve subsequent meetings in Chile in October and a proposed dialogue in Mendoza, Argentina in 2013.

The center's work involves several other UA researchers – Robert G. Varady, deputy director of the Udall Center; Carl Bauer in the School of Geography and Development; Gregg Garfin in the Institute of the Environment and the School of Natural Resources and Environment; and Margaret Wilder at the Udall Center, the Center for Latin American Studies and the School of Geography and Development – plus dozens of colleagues at academic and governmental institutions in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and the U.S.

"The idea for such a center grew from a meeting co-hosted by the IAI and UA in early 2011 of researchers and water managers from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico and United States," said Meza.

The meeting's participants identified key challenges to water security in the Americas, namely water scarcity and uncertain or variable supplies, governance issues, conflicts over allocation especially between types of users (such as agriculture, municipal or mining), the water-energy nexus (the energy needed for pumping irrigation water and the water needed for hydropower generation), lack of long-term climate information, insufficient meteorological monitoring throughout the Americas, and difficulties in communicating climate risk and forecast uncertainties to stakeholders.

"What came out of the meeting was a commitment to produce policy-relevant, interdisciplinary knowledge in a ‘science-policy dialogue' process involving water managers and decision makers and the public," said Scott.

"To achieve water security in the Americas, several major challenges must be addressed, including rapid economic growth and global integration – which have accelerated urbanization and increased water consumption – and climate-ecosystem interactions driven by global environmental change," said Scott.

A synthesis article on the development, coordination and impacts of science-policy dialogues in the Americas, "Science-policy dialogues for water security: Addressing vulnerability and adaptation to global change in the arid Americas," appears in the current issue of Environment magazine.

In June 2011, the IAI Conference of the Parties endorsed the concept of AQUASEC as an IAI center of excellence and the IAI provided a start-up grant of $300,000 to the UA and the Pontifical Catholic University.

AQUASEC will convene, together with IAI, a hemisphere-wide training program on adaptive management for water security for scientists and agency personnel, to be held Oct. 8-17 in La Serena, Chile.