Science Inventory

San Luis Basin Sustainability Metrics Project: A Methodology for Evaluating Regional Sustainability

Citation:

HEBERLING, M. T. AND M. HOPTON. San Luis Basin Sustainability Metrics Project: A Methodology for Evaluating Regional Sustainability. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-10/182, 2011.

Impact/Purpose:

To share with Public

Description:

Although there are several scientifically-based sustainability metrics, many are data intensive, difficult to calculate, and fail to capture all aspects of a system. To address these issues, we produced a scientifically-defensible, but straightforward and inexpensive, methodology to measure, monitor, and maintain prosperity and environmental quality within a regional system. To apply this methodology, we require historical data that are readily accessible, metrics that are applicable to the relevant scale, and results that meet the needs of decision makers. We initiated a pilot project in the San Luis Basin, south-central Colorado, to test the methodology. The objectives were: 1) determine the applicability of using existing datasets to estimate metrics of sustainability at a regional scale; 2) calculate metrics through time (proposal was from 1980-2005); and 3) compare and contrast the results to determine if the system was moving toward or away from sustainability. The interdisciplinary research team, which included ecologists, engineers, economists, geographers, lawyers, and outreach specialists, was first used to identify major components of the system. The sustainability metrics, chosen to represent those major components, were: 1) Ecological Footprint to capture the impact and human burden on the system; 2) Green Net Regional Product to estimate economic prosperity and well-being; 3) Emergy to capture the quality-normalized flow of energy through the system; and 4) Fisher information to capture the overall dynamic order and to look for possible regime changes. We believe that our methodology adequately characterizes and evaluates the sustainability of the San Luis Basin. The interdisciplinary approach does a sufficient job of assessing whether a region is moving toward or away from sustainability. We do not contend that this methodology is definitive; however, we do argue that each metric identifies changes to major components of the system. Furthermore, we consider these metrics to adequately represent the complexity of a regional system. This special issue presents an overview of the San Luis Basin Sustainability Metrics Project, approaches used to estimate the four metrics, and an interpretation of the results with recommendations for future research.

URLs/Downloads:

SAN LUIS BASIN SUSTAINABILITY METRICS PROJECT: A METHODOLOGY FOR EVALUATING REGIONAL SUSTAINABILITY

Abstract

Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (PUBLISHED REPORT/REPORT)
Product Published Date: 03/15/2012
Record Last Revised: 03/23/2012
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 230098

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL RISK MANAGEMENT RESEARCH LABORATORY

SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGY DIVISION

SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENTS BRANCH