Framing scenarios of binational water policy with a tool to visualize, quantify and valuate changes in ecosystem services

Laura M. Norman, Miguel L. Villarreal, Rewati Niraula, Thomas Meixner, George Frisvold, William Labiosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


In the Santa Cruz Watershed, located on the Arizona-Sonora portion of the U.S.-Mexico border, an international wastewater treatment plant treats wastewater from cities on both sides of the border, before discharging it into the river in Arizona. These artificial flows often subsidize important perennial surface water ecosystems in the region. An explicit understanding of the benefits of maintaining instream flow for present and future generations requires the ability to assess and understand the important trade-offs implicit in water-resource management decisions. In this paper, we outline an approach for modeling and visualizing impacts of management decisions in terms of rare terrestrial and aquatic wildlife, vegetation, surface water, groundwater recharge, real-estate values and socio-environmental vulnerable communities. We identify and quantify ecosystem services and model the potential reduction in effluent discharge to the U.S. that is under scrutiny by binational water policy makers and of concern to stakeholders. Results of service provisioning are presented, and implications for policy makers and resource managers are discussed. This paper presents a robust ecosystem services assessment of multiple scenarios of watershed management as a means to discern eco-hydrological responses and consider their potential values for future generations living in the borderlands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)852-874
Number of pages23
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013


  • Ecosystem services
  • Effluent
  • Public value
  • Riparian change
  • Scenario analysis
  • Water policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology


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