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


Richelle Winkler


In the American Southwest, a growing population combined with climate change induced weather pattern changes are creating growing conflict for uses of the over appropriated Colorado River System. Water managers use a variety of tools and data to make decisions at the local and regional level which will impact access for future users. The purpose of this study is to understand how water managers use data and knowledge to manage current and future access to water resources in a water scarce region. A case study of the Gunnison River Basin located within the larger Colorado River Basin was conducted over 14 months. Information was collected in the form of regional documentation, participant observation, and interviews of nine regional water professionals. Gathered data was analyzed throughout the collection process using the theory building and testing methods of grounded theory. Rather than directly informing management, findings indicate that the use of data is mediated by the social institution of water law and its associated social norms, organizations, and bureaucracy.