Restoring and Maintaining Riparian Ecosystem Integrity in Arid Watersheds: Meeting the Challenge through Science and Policy Analysis

EPA Grant Number: R827150
Title: Restoring and Maintaining Riparian Ecosystem Integrity in Arid Watersheds: Meeting the Challenge through Science and Policy Analysis
Investigators: Maddock, Thomas , Baker, Victor R. , Colby, Bonnie G. , Glennon, Robert J. , Stromberg, Julie
Current Investigators: Maddock, Thomas , Baird, Kate , Baker, Victor R. , Breckenridge, Cabell , Colby, Bonnie G. , Glennon, Robert J. , Stromberg, Julie
Institution: University of Arizona
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: January 15, 1999 through January 1, 2002
Project Amount: $849,638
RFA: Water and Watersheds (1998) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water , Water and Watersheds


This project furthers community-based environmental protection by integrating hydrologic models, a riparian ecosystem integrity index and economic analyses into a user-friendly decision support system (DSS). Coupled with legal analysis, this integration will assist local governments and stakeholders in understanding the impact of development on the particular watersheds and in evaluating different strategies for achieving environmental restoration from a scientific, economic and legal perspective. The project focuses on arid watersheds for which there exists considerable instrumentation on which to build and refine the hydrologic and ecologic models.


This proposal brings together expertise from five essential disciplines whose knowledge is critical to restoring rivers in the arid West: hydrology, ecology, geomorphology, economics and law. We will refine existing hydrologic models in the areas of riparian evapotranspiration and surface-groundwater interactions. A riparian ecosystem integrity index will be developed based on landscape, community and population level traits. Field studies will be conducted to refine our understanding of the linkages between groundwater, surface water and ecological variables. We will then integrate the hydrologic models, the ecological integrity index and economic analysis in a geographical information system (GIS) format, to develop a decision support system (DSS). The DSS will calculate environmental and economic benefits and costs associated with different restoration strategies. Potential changes in law or policy that will facilitate community based restoration will be identified and evaluated.

Expected Results:

This study will enhance our technical and social capacity to restore and preserve riparian ecosystems. The scientific, economic and legal findings will raise awareness about the value of riparian restoration and the importance of river flow and groundwater management. The DSS will enable water managers to make informed decisions about how to manage water resources to restore degraded riparian ecosystems and prevent loss of integrity and how to structure water policy to facilitate restoration that preserves local economies. Ultimately, the project results could serve as a model for meeting the challenges of maintaining riparian ecosystem integrity in water-scarce, urbanizing watersheds.

Improvements in Risk Management:

Risk assessment is an active integrated element in our research strategy. By directly combining economics, ecology and hydrology into a user-friendly decision support system, government agencies and stakeholders can analyze the consequences of water management decisions and the economic and ecological tradeoffs of environmental restoration. The economic and environmental benefits potentially achieved by changing the existing institutions and legal constraints improve the infrastructure of the risk assessment process itself.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 36 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 6 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

watersheds, decision making, integrated assessment, ecological effects., RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Hydrology, Water & Watershed, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Restoration, decision-making, Ecology and Ecosystems, Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration, Mercury, Watersheds, Economics & Decision Making, ecosystem valuation, risk assessment, urban watershed rehabilitation method, community involvement, community-based research, decision making, arid watersheds, conservation, socioeconomics, integrated assessment, ecological recovery, aquatic ecosystems, GIS, ecology assessment models, public policy, riparian ecosystem integrity, restoration planning, watershed restoration, econometrics

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • Final Report