Robert G. Varady

Robert G. Varady

Research Professor Emeritus of Environmental Policy, Environmental Policy Programs, Udall Center
Affiliated/Joint Faculty Research Professor of Arid Lands Studies in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment
Adjunct Professor of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences

Robert G. Varady is Research Professor Emeritus of Environmental Policy the Udall Center at the University of Arizona, where he is a past director and deputy director. He obtained his PhD in 1981 in the modern history of developing-country infrastructure from the University of Arizona and holds MS and BS degrees in mathematics from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (now NYU Tandon School of Engineering) and the City College of New York, respectively.

Varady's work mostly has addressed environmental and water-management governance and policy in arid regions, with an emphasis on transboundary issues, especially along the U.S.-Mexico border. He has studied the history of global water initiatives, transboundary aquifer governance, and water security in the Americas. He has been a consultant to UNESCO, FAO, and GEF on a number of water-related efforts; and led an evaluation of UNESCO’s World Water Assessment Program.

Varady has co-edited 13 books, monographs, digests, edited volumes, and journal special issues; and published some 230 essays and reports on water and environmental governance, policy, and history; agricultural development; information management; and transportation systems. He has directed environmental and agricultural projects in Latin America, West Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.

He is a Fellow Member of the International Water Resources Association, past president of the International Water History Association (IWHA), and his international efforts were recognized by the University of Arizona’s 2012 Award for Excellence in Global Service.

Areas of expertise and research interests

  • Global and transboundary groundwater governance
  • Global water initiatives
  • Environment, natural-resources, climate, water security, and water-management policy
  • U.S.-Mexico border environment, comparative border environmental policy 
  • History of water, environment, natural-resources, agriculture, infrastructure
  • Environment and development in Mexico, West Africa, South Asia, Middle East

Links to projects and programs

Recent Selected Publications

For information about the publications listed here, including how to obtain copies if you are unable to access them via the links provided, contact Robert Varady at

Books and journal special issues

Petersen-Perlman, J. D., T. R. Albrecht, E. M. Tapia-Villaseñor, R. G. Varady, and S. B. Megdal. 2023. Science and binational cooperation: Bidirectionality in the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program in the Arizona-Sonora border region. In Advances in Transboundary Aquifer Assessment, Special Issue Reprint (from Water 13, 17), ed by S. B. Megdal and A.-M. Matherne. pp. 31-49. Basel, Switzerland: MDPI AG. 334 pp.

Varady, R. G., A. K. Gerlak, M. O. Wilder, and N. Pineda, eds. 2021. Special issue, Environmental Science and Policy, “New Directions in Hydrodiplomacy to Meet Global Water Challenges: Learning from the Past, Shaping the Future.” 

Shared Borders, Shared Waters: Israeli-Palestinian and Colorado River Basin Water Challenges. 2013. Megdal, S.B., R.G. Varady, and S. Eden, eds. Leiden: CRC Press/Balkema – Taylor & Francis Group in cooperation with UNESCO-IHE. 320 + xxii pp.

“Rethinking Integrated Assessments and Management Projects in the Americas” Special issue (Vol. 26) Environmental Science and Policy. 2013. Garfin, G., P. Romero-Lankao, and R.G. Varady, eds. 112 pp.

Moving Forward from Vulnerability to Adaptation: Climate Change, Drought, and Water Demand in the Urbanizing Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. 2012. Wilder, M., C.A. Scott, N. Pineda-Pablos, R.G. Varady, and G.M. Garfin, eds. 2012. Tucson: Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy. 170 pp. English and Spanish.

Conservation of Shared Environments: Learning from the United States and Mexico. 2009. López-Hoffman, L., E.D. McGovern, R.G. Varady, and K.W. Flessa, eds. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. 320p.

Articles and essays

Varady, R. G., T. R, Albrecht, A. K. Gerlak, and A. C. Haverland. 2022. Global water initiatives redux: A fresh look at the world of waterWater 14, 3093; 44 pp.

Petersen-Perlman, J. D., T. R. Albrecht, E. M. Tapia-Villaseñor, R. G. Varady, and S. B. Megdal. 2021. Science and binational cooperation: Bidirectionality in the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program in the Arizona-Sonora border region. Water 13, 17. 

Varady, R. G., S. Mumme, and A. K. Gerlak. 2021 (1 July 2021). 'Megadrought' along border challenges US-Mexico water relations (also in Spanish). The Conversation. Lead article. More than 80,000 reads. 

Varady, R. G., A. K. Gerlak, M. O. Wilder, and N. Pineda Pablos. 2021. Ruminations and insights on hydrodiplomacy. Environmental Science and Policy. In special issue, Environmental Science and Policy 124 (Oct.): 55-63. In “New Directions in Hydrodiplomacy to Meet Global Water Challenges: Learning from the Past, Shaping the Future,” ed. by R. G. Varady, M. O. Wilder, A. K. Gerlak, and N. Pineda.

Scott, C. A., M. I. Zilio, T. Harmon, A. Zuniga Teran, R. Díaz Caravantes, N. Hoyos, G. M. E. Perillo, F. Meza, R. G. Varady, A. Ribeiro Neto, M. I. Velez, F. Martín, J. Escobar, M. C. Piccolo, P. Mussetta, S. Montenegro, J. A. Rusak, and N. Pineda. 2020. Do ecosystem insecurity and social inequity lead to failure of water security? Environmental Development.

Lutz-Ley, A. N., C. A. Scott, M. Wilder, R. G. Varady, A. Ocampo-Melgar, F. Lara-Valencia, A. Zuniga-Teran, S. Buechler, R. Díaz-Caravantes, A. Ribeiro Neto, N. Pineda-Pablos, and F. Mártín. 2020. Dialogic science-policy networks for water security governance in the arid Americas. Environmental Development.

Varady, R. G., T. R. Albrecht, A. K. Gerlak, M. O. Wilder, B. M. Mayer, A. Zuniga-Teran, K. C. Ernst, and M. C. Lemos. 2020. The exigencies of transboundary water security: insights on community resilience. In special issue, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 44: 74-84, "Resilience and complexity: Frameworks and models to capture social-ecological interactions,” ed. by C. A. Scott and F.-M. Le Tourneau.

Wilder, M.O., R.G. Varady, S.P. Mumme, A.K. Gerlak, K.W. Flessa, A. Zuñiga, C.A. Scott, N. Pineda Pablos, and S.B. Megdal. 2020. Hydrodiplomacy and adaptive governance at the U.S.-Mexico border: 75 years of tradition and innovation in transboundary water management. In special issue, Environmental Science and Policy 112: 189-202, “New Directions in Hydrodiplomacy to Meet Global Water Challenges: Learning from the Past, Shaping the Future,” ed. by R. G. Varady, M. O. Wilder, A. K. Gerlak, and N. Pineda.

Wilder, M.O., R.G. Varady, S.P. Mumme, N. Pineda Pablos, A.K. Gerlak, and C.A. Scott. 2019. U.S.-Mexico hydrodiplomacy: Foundations, change, and future challenges. Science and Diplomacy 8, 2 (Dec.). 15pp. Online at

Albrecht, T.R., R.G. Varady, A.A. Zuniga-Teran, A. Gerlak, R. De Grenade, A. Lutz-Ley, F. Martín, S.B. Megdal, F. Meza, D. Ocampo Melgar, N. Pineda, F. Rojas, R. Taboada, B. Willems. 2018. Unraveling transboundary water security in the arid Americas. In special issue, "Water security: science, systems and policy," ed. by C. Staddon and C.A. Scott. Water International 43, 8: 1075-1113. DOI: 10.1080/02508060.2018.1541583.

Scott, C.A., T. Albrecht, R. de Grenade, A. Zuniga Teran, R.G. Varady, B. Thapa. 2018. Water security and the pursuit of food, energy, and earth systems resilience. In special issue, "Water security: science, systems and policy," ed. by Staddon and Scott. Water International 43, 8: 1055-1074. DOI:10.1080/02508060.2018.1534564.

Petersen-Perlman, J.D., S.B. Megdal, A.K. Gerlak, R.G. Varady, M. Wireman, A.A. Zuniga-Teran. 2018. Critical issues affecting groundwater quality governance and management in the United States. Water 10, 6. doi:10.3390/w10060735; online at

Gerlak, A.K., L. House-Peters, R.G. Varady, T Albrecht, A. Zúñiga-Terán, C.A. Scott, R. de Grenade, and C. Cook. 2018. Water security: A review of place-based research. Environmental Science and Policy 82: 79–89.

Albrecht, T, R.G. Varady, A.A. Zuniga, A.K. Gerlak, and C. Staddon. 2017. Governing a shared hidden resource: A review of governance mechanisms for transboundary groundwater security. Water Security 2: 43-56.

Innovative approaches to collaborative groundwater governance in the United States: Case studies from three high-growth regions in the Sun Belt. 2017. Megdal, S.B., A. Gerlak, L-Y. Huang, N. Delano, R.G. Varady, and J. Petersen-Perlman. Journal of Environmental Management 59, 5: 718-735. 

Adaptive management and water security in a global context: Definitions, concepts, and examples. 2016. Varady, R.G., A. Zuñiga-Teran, G. Garfin, F. Martín, and S. Vicuña. In press. Special issue of Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, "Environmental Change and Assessment," ed. by G.M. Garfin, M. Wilder, and R. Merideth.

Metrics for assessing adaptive capacity and water security: Common challenges, diverging contexts, emerging consensus. 2016. Garfin, G., C.A. Scott, M. Wilder, R.G. Varady, and R. Merideth. 2016. Special issue, "Environmental Change and Assessment," of Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 21: 86-89. ed. by Garfin, G, Wilder, M, and Merideth, R. 

Modes, approaches, and lessons learned: A survey of selected cases of groundwater governance across the globe. 2016. Varady, R.G., A.A. Zuniga-Teran, A.K. Gerlak, and S.B. Megdal. In special issue, “Water Governance, Stakeholder Engagement, and Sustainable Water Resources Management,” ed. by S. Megdal, S. Eden, and E. Shamir. Water 8, 417: 24pp. doi:10.3390/w8100417.

Scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders plan for climate change: A promising approach in Chile’s Maipo basin. 2016. Ocampo-Melgar, A., S. Vicuña, J. Gironás-León, R.G. Varady, and C.A. Scott. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development 58, 5 (Sept.-Oct.): 24-37.

Desalination and water security in the US–Mexico border region: assessing the social, environmental and political impacts. 2016. Wilder, M.O., I. Aguilar-Barajas; N. Pineda-Pablos, R.G. Varady, S.M. Megdal, J. McEvoy, R. Merideth, A.A. Zúñiga-Terán, and C.A. Scott. Water International 41, 5: 756-75.

Transboundary groundwater governance in the Guarani Aquifer System: reflections from a survey of global and regional experts. 2015. Sugg, Z., R.G. Varady, A.K. Gerlak, and R. de Grenade. Water International 40, 3: 377–400.

Groundwater governance in the United States: Common priorities and challenges. (2015) Megdal, S. B., A. K. Gerlak, R. G. Varady, and L.-Y. Huang. Groundwater 52, 1: 1-8.

Book chapters

Varady, R. G., T. Albrecht, C. Staddon, A. K. Gerlak, and A. A. Zuniga-Teran (2021). The water security discourse and its main actors. In Handbook of Water Resources Management: Discourses, Concepts, and Examples, ed. by J. J. Bogardi, T.Tingsanchali, K. D. W. Nandalal, J. Gupta, L. Salamé, R. R. P. van Nooijen, A. G. Kolechkina, N. Kumar, A. Bhaduri. Springer. pp. 215-52.

Megdal, S.B., Zuniga Teran, A., Varady, R.G., Delano, N., Gerlak, A.K., and Vimont, E.T. Groundwater governance in the United States: A mosaic of priorities and approaches. 2018. Chapter 24 in Advances in Groundwater Governance, ed. by K. Villholth, E. Lopez-Gunn, K. Conti, A. Garrido, and J. van Der Gun. Delft: CRC Balkema. pp. 483-509. 

de Chaisemartin, M., R. G. Varady, S. B. Megdal, K. Conti, J. van der Gun, A. Merla, G.-J. Nijsten, and F. Scheibler. 2016. Addressing the groundwater governance challenge—A call from the “Groundwater Governance: A Global Framework for Action” Project (Chapter 11). In Freshwater Governance for the 21st Century, ed. by E. Karar. Volume 6 of the series. Global Issues in Water Policy. Springer. pp. 205-227.  

Merideth, R., and R. G. Varady. 2016. Gilbert Fowler White. In Oxford Bibliographies in Environmental Science, Ed. Ellen Wohl. New York: Oxford University Press. 22pp. Online at:  

Reports and working papers

Evaluation of the World Water Assessment Programme. 2015. Gerlak, A.K., Megdal, S.B., and R.G. Varady (team leader), in collab. with A. Malhotra and J. Vaessen (task manager). Paris: UNESCO. 127 + vi pp.

Improving integrated surface water and groundwater management in the United States: Three case studies of innovative groundwater governance approaches. 2015. Megdal, S.B., A.K. Gerlak, R.G. Varady, and L-Y. Huang. 2015. Report. Tucson: UA Water Resources Research Center. 53 pp.

Groundwater policy and governance. 2013. Varady, R.G., F. van Weert, S.B. Megdal, A. Gerlak, C. Abdalla Iskandar, and L. House-Peters. Thematic Paper No. 5. Groundwater governance: A global framework for country action. GEF project 3726. 38 pp.

Guidance on links between water reclamation and reuse and regional growth. 2011. Scott, C.A., A. Browning-Aiken, K.J. Ormerod, R.G. Varady, C.D. Mogollon, and C. Tessmer. Report 6-16-1. WateReuse Research Foundation.


  • Ph.D
  • M.S.
  • B.S.