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Rupert Quentin Grafton, James Horne, and Sarah A. Wheeler

Global water extractions from streams, rivers, lakes, and aquifers are continuously increasing, yet some four billion people already face severe water scarcity for at least one month per year. Deteriorating water security will, in the absence in how water is governed, get worse with climate change, as modeling projections indicate that much of the world’s arid and semiarid locations will receive less rainfall into the future. Concomitant with climate change is a growing world population, expected to be about 10 billion by 2050, that will greatly increase the global food demand, but this demand cannot be met without increased food production that depends on an adequate supply of water for agriculture. This poses a global challenge: How to ensure immediate and priority needs (such as safe drinking water) are satisfied without compromising future water security and the long-term sustainability of freshwater ecosystems? An effective and sustainable response must resolve the “who gets what water and when” water allocation problem and promote water justice. Many decision makers, however, act as if gross inequities in water access can be managed by “business as usual” and upgrades in water infrastructure alone. But much more is needed if the world is to achieve its Sustainable Development Goal of “water and sanitation for all” by 2030. Transformational change is required such that the price paid for water by users includes the economic costs of supply and use and the multiple values of water. Water markets in relation to physical volumes of water offer one approach, among others, that can potentially deliver transformational change by: (a) providing economic incentives to promote water conservation and (b) allowing water to be voluntarily transferred among competing users and uses (including non-uses for the environment and uses that support cultural values) to increase the total economic value from water. Realizing the full potential of water markets, however, is a challenge, and formal water markets require adequate regulatory oversight. Such oversight, at a minimum, must ensure: (a) the metering, monitoring, and compliance of water users and catchment-scale water auditing; (b) active compliance to protect both buyers and sellers from market manipulations; and (c) a judiciary system that supports the regulatory rules and punishes noncompliance. In many countries, the institutional and water governance framework is not yet sufficiently developed for water markets. In some countries, such as Australia, China, Spain, and the United States, the conditions do exist for successful water markets, but ongoing improvements are still needed as circumstances change in relation to water users and uses, institutions, and the environment. Importantly, into the future, water markets must be designed and redesigned to promote both water security and water justice. Without a paradigm shift in how water is governed, and that includes rethinking water markets to support efficiency and equitable access, billions of people will face increasing risks to their livelihoods and lives and many fresh-water environments will face the risk of catastrophic decline.


Every flood event reveals hidden disparities within cities—disparities in capacities to anticipate, respond to, and recover from disasters. Studies examining drivers of disparity have found that highly socially vulnerable (e.g., poor, minority) neighborhoods sustain more damage, have access to fewer recovery resources, and experience slower recovery. Climate change and unregulated growth are likely to exacerbate these disparities. Scholars argue that disparities along the lines of race and income are partly due to inadequate planning. Planning for flood mitigation has lacked a deep understanding of values and has therefore overlooked needs and exacerbated physical vulnerability in socially vulnerable neighborhoods. Increasing local and international attention to the socioeconomic drivers of disaster impacts elicits the question: How can land use planning foster more equitable hazard mitigation practices that meet the needs identified by marginalized communities? Equitable hazard mitigation is advanced through three dimensions. First, contextual equity involves preparing an information base that asks who is vulnerable to flooding, who has (not) been engaged in planning decisions that affect vulnerability to flooding, and why. Recognizing contextual inequities in plans is the first step to making visible historic discrimination and addressing drivers of persisting political disenfranchisement. Second, procedural equity involves organizing a participation process that critically considers whom participation processes should target, how stakeholders should be inclusively engaged, and how multiple values should inform policy priorities. Dedicated planning-participation processes can repair past legacies of power information imbalances and co-produce planning goals. A process where vulnerable, marginalized citizens have as much information and as much say in policy decisions as others adds nuance to planners’ understanding of needs, and enables the incorporation of overlooked values into distribution of land use policies. Third, distributional equity involves designing planning policies so that flood mitigation services and infrastructure are directed to neighborhoods and households most in need. Moreover, distributional equity considerations need to be integrated across the local government plans (e.g., transportation plan, housing plan, and hazard mitigation plan) that affect growth in hazardous areas. Social equity outcomes further rely on the degree of knowledge transfer between the three dimensions. The effectiveness of distributional equity is critically dependent on contextual and procedural equity and affects how plan outcomes align with the needs and values of disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. Likewise, the scope of contextual equity is shaped by historical distributional and procedural equity or lack thereof. To advance equitable outcomes, more research is required on the implementation and effectiveness of different land use planning approaches. Future inquiries should examine social equity through a multihazard lens; empirically analyze the causal relationships among the contextual, procedural, and distributional equity; and explore the effectiveness of different planning tools and governance structures in fostering socially equitable hazard mitigation.


Katharine J. Mach, Miyuki Hino, A.R. Siders, Steven F. Koller, Caroline M. Kraan, Jennifer Niemann, and Brett F. Sanders

Societies throughout the world are experiencing more severe and frequent flooding with consequences for people’s livelihoods, health, safety, and heritage. Much flood risk management to date has aimed to maximize economic benefits, reduce the likelihood of flood disasters, and facilitate recovery where needed. It has assumed a stationary climate and focused on extremes and financial losses. But this paradigm of flood control is increasingly at odds with the full set of challenges and requirements for flood risk management. Critical challenges motivate a shift from flood control to flood adaptation. First, under climate change, flood risks are intensifying and changing, and new normals are appearing, such as daily high-tide flooding or permanent inundation. Fully controlling flood hazards with one-time interventions is increasingly untenable. Second, floods affect numerous, multidimensional aspects of human and ecological well-being and social justice. Past flood control efforts, and the decision-making processes that produced them, have often failed to address these multidimensional concerns or even had negative side effects. Fundamental adjustments are emerging and will be needed: a guiding paradigm of flexibility rather than control, a system-wide approach with coordinated action across scales, and increased attention to the full range of priorities relevant to successful interventions. For example, science and research for flood risk adaptation increasingly involve processes supporting usable, inclusive knowledge tailored to decision contexts. Integrative science partnerships such as collaborative flood modeling can incorporate the dynamic physical and social landscapes of flood drivers, impacts, and management. Flexible processes allow updating as flood risks change, and collaborative processes can build intuition, trust, and understanding of risks, including improved awareness of the values and relationships that are threatened and preferred response options. The goal of flood risk management is no longer limited to preventing floods; flood risk management must balance risk tolerances with ecological and social benefits and weigh the trade-offs of management strategies against other societal goals. This “science for society” is inherently political, requiring careful attention to and evaluation of who participates, whose goals are prioritized, and who benefits. Furthermore, methods of evidence-based decision-making must be able to accommodate deep uncertainties, changing risks and values, and limits to responses. Shifts are already occurring, including dynamic adaptive management practices and improvements to tools such as cost–benefit comparisons. These changes illustrate a larger reframing within flood risk management, away from disaster management focused on extreme isolated events and toward adaptation in response to enduring changes across both extreme and average conditions. The current challenges of flood risk management create opportunities for integrating lessons from diverse domains of actionable science and public policy and thereby innovating processes of climate adaptation relevant to a range of climate risks.