Austin’s Quadrant: a new framework for assessing water use models

Author(s): Czarnecki, J.; Kröger, R.; Omer, A.

Although water resources are frequently discussed as an issue of Tragedy of the Commons, this paradigm has well-published shortcomings which make it irrelevant in some situations. A new framework for water use models is proposed where regions are evaluated on two continua, infrastructure and supply. A quadrant is formed wherein regions in quadrant I experience both ample water supply and adequate infrastructure with which to utilize available supply. Regions falling within quadrants II and IV experience a shortage of either supply (II) or infrastructure (IV) but adequate levels of the opposite factor. Regions falling within quadrant III bear the double burden of limited supply and infrastructure. This paper explores case studies within the four quadrants and attempts to answer the questions: (1) what does it take to move from quadrants III or IV to quadrants II or I, and more importantly (2) how do regions in quadrant I not move into quadrant II? Engineered infrastructure must increase concomitantly with governance infrastructure or regions will slide farther down the supply continuum. Education and outreach hold the most promise to shoring up the future of water resources for these regions. Users who make the connection between individual use and its effect on aquifer supply are more likely to engage in conserving behavior and to be more accepting of regulation of use. If adequate education alone is unable to stem overuse, then at least regulation will be supported.

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