2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 2:40 PM


JACKSON-SMITH, Douglas B., Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology, Utah State University, 0730 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-0730, douglasj@hass.usu.edu

Traditional approaches to the modeling of hydrologic systems have focused on understanding the basic dynamics of natural systems, unaltered by human activities. However, most hydrologic systems have been significantly affected by human behavior – particularly with respect to surface and atmospheric pathways. Indeed, it is difficult to find pristine hydrologic areas where the movement of water can be understood without incorporating information about human manipulation of water. This is particularly true in the arid Intermountain West, where complex irrigation and culinary water diversions combine with urbanization to create new hydrologic dynamics that affect local climate, water availability and quality, and groundwater recharge patterns. This paper argues that the advance of hydrologic modeling efforts will require integration of information about human dimensions of hydrologic systems. Social science expertise can contribute at several levels. First, they can document and interpret trends in human behavior that affect the hydrologic cycle. Second, social scientists can contribute to interdisciplinary teams in the design of hydrologic experiments. Such integrated research designs will enable the distinctive contribution of human activities (and the impacts of changes in human impacts over time) on hydrologic processes to be isolated and predicted with greater scientific precision. Benefits of bringing ‘humans' into the modeling work include better science, more accurate hydrologic models, and an improved ability of hydrologic research to be relevant and contribute to societal policy debates. The contributions of various social science disciplines to the study of hydrology will be reviewed using examples drawn from diverse social and non-social scientific studies of hydrology in the Intermountain West.