Water in the West - Session 1 - Melinda Benson and Barbara Cosens
Resilience in water governance:
building adaptive capacity within
social-ecological systems facing
Melinda Harm Benson
University of New Mexico, Geography and Environmental Studies
University of Idaho College of Law
Transformational Solutions for Water in the West Workshop
Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico
5 September 2013
• Resilience thinking and water governance
• U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Basin Studies
• NSF supported “Social-Ecological System Resilience,
Climate Change and Adaptive Water Governance”
The capacity of a system to absorb a spectrum
of disturbances and reorganize so as to retain
essentially the same function, structure, and
feedbacks—to have the same identity (Walker
and Salt 2012).
• “water dependent
• projections of future supply and demand by
• analysis of how the basin’s existing water and
power operations and infrastructure will
perform in the face of changing water
• Options and recommendation regarding how
to improve operations and infrastructure to
supply adequate water in the future.
Resilience, Climate Change and
Adaptive Water Governance”
PROPOSED STUDY BASINS to
assess ecological resilience to
climate change and adaptive
• The capacity to reconceptualize and create a
fundamentally new system with different
characteristics (Walker and Salt 2004)
– Preparedness to change (as opposed to state of
– Having the options for change (possible new
– The capacity to change
It is not the strongest of the species
that survives, nor the most
intelligent that survives. It is the one
that is the most adaptable to change.
— Charles Darwin
• This work was conducted as part of an Innovation
Working Group by the Tri- State EPSCoR Programs
and funded by National Science Foundation #
• “Social-Ecological System Resilience, Climate
Change and Adaptive Water Governance” work is
supported by the National Socio-Environmental
Synthesis Center (SESYNC) under funding from
the National Science Foundation DBI-1052875
• Thanks to my Natural Resource Management
Seminar Students for their helpful feedback and
• Melinda Harm Benson
Geography and Environmental Studies
• View my research on my SSRN Author page:
Photos of MRG (M. Harvey and D. Llewellyn)
Benson, M. H., and A. Garmestani. 2011. “Can We Manage for Resilience? The
Integration of Resilience Thinking into Natural Resource Management in the
United States.” Environ. Manage. 48 (3): 392-399.
Biermann, F. et al. 2012. “Navigating the Anthropocene: Improving Earth System
Governance.” Science. 335: 1306-1307.
Carpenter, S., B. Walker, J. M. Anderies, and N. Abel. 2001. “From Metaphor to
Measurement: Resilience of What to What?” Ecosystems. 4 (8): 765–781.
Craig, R. K. 2010. “Stationarity Is Dead Long Live Transformation: Five Principles for
Climate Change Adaptation Law.” Harvard Environmental Law Review. 34 (1): 9—
Folke C., J. Colding, and F. Berkes, 2002. Building resilience for adaptive capacity in
social-ecological systems. In: Berkes F., J. Colding, and C.
Folke (eds). 2003. Navigating Social-Ecological Systems: Building Resilience for
Complexity and Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Milly, P. C. D. et al. 2008. “Stationarity Is Dead: Whither Water Management?”
Science. 319: 573–574.
Walker B. and D. Salt. 2004. Resilience Thinking (Island Press).
Walker B. and D. Salt. 2012. Resilience Practice (Island Press).