Moving Forward from Vulnerability to Adaptation: Climate Change, Drought, and Water Demand in the Urbanizing Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico 

A NOAA-SARP Project (2008-2010)

See also the project's next phase (2011-2013): Managing Demand, Rethinking Supply.

Project Summary and Publications

Project Summary (July 2011) (pdf) (ppt)
Project-related Publications (pdf)


Moving Forward from Vulnerability to Adaptation: Climate Change, Drought, and Water Demand in the Urbanizing Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico.

Case Studies in Ambos Nogales, Puerto Peñasco, Tucson, and Hermosillo 
Edited by Margaret Wilder, Christopher A. Scott, Nicolás Pineda-Pablos, Robert G. Varady, and Gregg M. Garfin
Udall Center Publications, 2012
ISBN 978-1-931143-42-4
Full Document (pdf 26 MB)

Chapter 1: Introduction (pdf 0.9 MB)
Chapter 2: Ambos Nogales Case Study (pdf 5.4 MB)
Chapter 3: Puerto Peñasco Case Study (pdf 3.0 MB)
Chapter 4: Tucson Case Study (pdf 4.1 MB)
Chapter 5: Hermosillo Case Study (pdf 8.3 MB)

Project Overview

Climate change and associated variability in water resources pose serious challenges for water managers in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. Urban areas confront the future challenges of rapid growth and intensified water demand related to socioeconomic changes and climate-related uncertainties, such as droughts, flooding, and the potential of reduced water supply.

Rapid growth in these areas has increased the vulnerability of urban water users to climatic changes. Looking toward a 20-year horizon, this project has focused on research to develop adaptive long-term planning for water management in four urban "hotspots" in the North American monsoon-affected corridor of Arizona and Sonora:
Tucson, Hermosillo,  Ambos Nogales (Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora), and Puerto Peñasco.

This project, supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sectoral Applications Research Program (NOAA-SARP), examined stakeholder-researcher engagement to develop regionalized adaptive water management strategies to reduce urban and rural vulnerabilities and build resilience. Working closely with urban water managers and civil preparedness planners in the Arizona-Sonora region, this project developed vulnerability assessments and site-specific adaptive management scenarios at the 5-, 10-, and 20-year horizons for the identified urban areas. In addition to support from NOAA-SARP, the project benefited from support and collaboration from the Climate Assessment for the Southwest Program (CLIMAS) and the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI).

Goal and Activities 


 Institutionalize the use of climate information by decision-makers in southern Arizona and northwest Mexico to foster longer-term adaptive planning and increase resiliency under conditions of uncertainty.
 Address the impacts of climate variability and climate change in vulnerable urban and rural areas.
Regionalize climate science production and utilization by water managers and other stakeholders through the development and field-testing of a binational, bilingual climate outlook summary.


 Use climate diagnostic information to identify and assess societal vulnerabilities posed.
 Socioeconomic and demographic change, climate variability and change, and emerging water demand uncertainties.
 Assess the institutional and policy implications of identified vulnerabilities.
 Work with stakeholders to develop adaptive management strategies for mid-long term scenarios.


Lead Agency 

The University of Arizona (USA)

Principal Investigator 

Robert Varady, Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy

Deputy Principal Investigator 

Margaret Wilder, Center for Latin American
Studies/Department of Geography and Regional Development

Co-Principal Investigator 

Christopher Scott, Udall Center for Studies in Public
Policy/Department of Geography and Regional Development


Gregg Garfin—Institute for the Study of Planet Earth
Barbara Morehouse—Institute for the Study of Planet Earth
Anne Browning-Aiken—Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy
George Frisvold—Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics


Nicolás Pineda—El Colegio de Sonora (México)
Martín Montero—Instituto Mexicano de Tecnología del Agua (IMTA) (México)
David Gochis—National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) (USA)
Patricia Romero Lankao—National Center for Atmospheric Research (USA)
Andrea Ray—National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (USA)

Chris Watts—Universidad de Sonora (México) Workshops 

Workshop Summary Reports, Presentations, and Photos (link)

Workshop Summaries 

2010: English (pdf) | Spanish (pdf)
2009: English (pdf) | Spanish (pdf)
2008: English (pdf)

More Project Information 

Project fact sheet (pdf)
Border Climate Summary / Resumen del Clima de la Frontera (most recent issue)
Stakeholder workshop agendas (IAI meeting page)

Related Projects and Organizations Online 

Arizona Water Institute (AWI)
Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS)
IAI Use of Climate Diagnostics project
Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Project (TAAP) 

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