Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental and Energy Policy (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Social Sciences


Kathleen E Halvorsen


The effects of climate change are expected to be very severe in arid regions. The Sonora River Basin, in the northwestern state of Sonora, Mexico, is likely to be severely affected. Some of the anticipated effects include precipitation variability, intense storm events, higher overall temperatures, and less available water. In addition, population in Sonora, specifically the capital city of Hermosillo, is increasing at a 1.5% rate and current populations are near 700,000. With the reduction in water availability and an increase in population, Sonora, Mexico is expected to experience severe water resource issues in the near future.

In anticipation of these changes, research is being conducted in an attempt to improve water management in the Sonora River Basin, located in the northwestern part of Sonora. This research involves participatory modeling techniques designed to increase water manager awareness of hydrological models and their use as integrative tools for water resource management. This study was conducted as preliminary research for the participatory modeling grant in order to gather useful information on the population being studied.

This thesis presents research from thirty-four in-depth interviews with water managers, citizens, and agricultural producers in Sonora, Mexico. Data was collected on perceptions of water quantity and quality in the basin, thoughts on current water management practices, perceptions of climate change and its management, experience with, knowledge of, and trust in hydrological models as water management tools.

Results showed that the majority of interviewees thought there was not enough water to satisfy their daily needs. Most respondents also agreed that the water available was of good quality, but that current management of water resources was ineffective. Nearly all interviewees were aware of climate change and thought it to be anthropogenic. May reported experiencing higher temperatures, precipitation changes, and higher water scarcity and attributed those fluctuations to climate change. 65% of interviewees were at least somewhat familiar with hydrological models, though only 28% had ever used them or their output. Even with model usage results being low, 100% of respondents believed hydrological models to be very useful water management tools. Understanding how water, climate change, and hydrological models are perceived by this population of people is essential to improving their water management practices in the face of climate change.