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Modeling for Water Management in the Rio Grande

The center has been inviting experts to discus how System Dynamics (SD) modeling can help inform policy questions. This afternoon Vince Tidwell from Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico discussed how his organization has used SD to help inform approaches to managing water in the Rio Grande Valley.

Water is a complex issue and our values for water are widely varied. To manage water and agree upon solutions there is often a process of negotiation that needs to occur. New Mexico has concluded that a stakeholder processes needed to occur and began a collaborative modeling process, which met bi-weekly for about a year. They considered many factors ranging from hydrology, climate change, demand, agricultural and environmental preservation. Certain legal agreements also needed to be considered such as a compact with the State of Texas that promises the state a certain amount of water to be flowing in the Rio Grande when entering exiting New Mexico.

One of the suggestions was to legislate that all new houses need to be built with low flow appliances and pay in portion for the cost of retrofitting existing homes. Many assumptions were expressed in the model. For example, demand for water decreases. However, in the model the river was still delivering less water. The reason being, the city of Albuquerque also pumps water from aquifers and after treating wastewater returns it to the Rio Grande.

Among the many suggestions that were considered one of the other take away messages was the public had a much higher acceptance rate after engaging in this process. These findings can help inform our processes in Minnesota as we also face challenges with water management in terms of drought, flooding, depletion and pollution.

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