Water and Climate Justice Publications
- Drought and Water Security in Central America
Iris Stewart-Frey, Ed Maurer, and their colleagues and students collaborate with smallholder farmers to understand how they can build capacity for water security and adapt in the face of climate change. In the process, the team has developed locally-relevant assessments of climate change and short-term and seasonal forecasts that can be shared through a new app (NicaAgua). This work has been supported by the Whitham family foundation and the National Science Foundation.
Stewart, I. T., Maurer, E. P., Stahl, K., & Joseph, K. (2022). Recent evidence for warmer and drier growing seasons in climate sensitive regions of Central America from multiple global datasets. International Journal of Climatology, 42(3), 1399-1417.
Maurer, E. P., Stewart, I. T., Joseph, K., & Hidalgo, H. G. (2022). The Mesoamerican mid-summer drought: the impact of its definition on occurrences and recent changes. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 26(5), 1425-1437.
Bacon, C.M., L. C. Kelley, and I. T. Stewart. (2022). Toward a feminist political ecology of household food and water security during drought in northern Nicaragua. Ecology and Society 27(1):16.
Bacon, C.M. Sundstrom, W. Stewart, IT., Maurer, E. and Kelley, L. (2021). Towards smallholder food and water security: Climate variability in the context of multiple livelihood hazards in Nicaragua. World Development, 143, 105468.
Maurer, E. P., Adam, J. C., & Wood, A. W. (2009). Climate model-based consensus on the hydrologic impacts of climate change to the Rio Lempa basin of Central America. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 13(2), 183-194.
Stewart, I. T., Maurer, E. P., Bacon, C. M., & Sundstrom, W. (2018, December). Identifying and responding to drought in the coffee-growing regions of northwestern Nicaragua. AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts, #PA14B-06.
Maurer, E. P., Roby, N., Stewart-Frey, I. T., & Bacon, C. M. (2017). Projected twenty-first-century changes in the Central American mid-summer drought using statistically downscaled climate projections. Regional environmental change, 17(8), 2421-2432.
Bacon, C. M., Sundstrom, W. A., Stewart, I. T., & Beezer, D. (2017). Vulnerability to cumulative hazards: Coping with the coffee leaf rust outbreak, drought, and food insecurity in Nicaragua. World Development, 93, 136-152.
- Drought and Water Justice in California
Iris Stewart-Frey is analyzing the disproportionate effects of drought on water security in different parts of watersheds, including EJ communities and ecosystems.
Stewart, I.T., Rogers, J., & Graham, A. (2020). Water security under severe drought and climate change: Disparate impacts of the recent severe drought on environmental flows and water supplies in Central California. Journal of Hydrology X, 7, 100054.
Stewart, I.T. (2016). Greening the growing deserts: Reflections from a hydrologist. Explore. Santa Clara, CA: Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, Santa Clara University.
- Water Contamination
Iris Stewart-Frey has analyzed common sources of groundwater contamination in agricultural areas in California, where low-income communities of color often draw water for household use.
Stewart, I. T., & Loague, K. (2004). Assessing ground water vulnerability with the type transfer function model in the San Joaquin Valley, California. Journal of Environmental Quality, 33(4), 1487-1498.
Stewart, I. T., & Loague, K. (1999). A type transfer function approach for regional-scale pesticide leaching assessments. Journal of Environmental Quality, 28(2), 378-387.
Example Student Projects
“No Man’s Land”: Unincorporated Communities in Modesto, CA
Student authors: Zachary Gianotti, Liz Rickley, Vanessa Shin
Community partner: Tuolumne River Trust, Modesto Office
Faculty advisor: Iris Stewart-Frey
Abstract: Unincorporated communities are areas within a city’s physical boundary but outside of a city’s jurisdiction; incorporation status affects local political representation, the provision of public services, and the enforcement of environmental and other regulations. In this project, we used spatial analysis, surveys, and focus groups to investigate such disparities in the City of Modesto, Stanislaus County, California, a city containing twenty-three unincorporated islands. Specifically, we explored access to municipal water, sewer, and garbage collection, exposure to pollution, and access to and quality of local parks. The results of our spatial analysis, in conjunction with information found through the surveys and focus groups, support the idea found in previous research that unincorporated areas are disadvantaged compared to their incorporated neighbors. Unincorporated areas of Modesto have lower rates of access to water-based services, greater social vulnerability, and low access to safe and clean parks. Additional issues, such as pollution from nearby factories and unlicensed vehicle dismantlers, also present burdens to Modesto’s unincorporated communities. There are likely other disparities rooted in incorporation status, but they were not investigated due to the limited scope of this study.
Equity in Funding for Valley Water Restoration Projects
Student authors: Samantha Bennett, Jeremy Gamelin, Alec Macleod
Community partner: Santa Clara Valley Water District (Valley Water)
Faculty advisor: Iris Stewart-Frey
Abstract: This project seeks to analyze Valley Water’s current grant distribution system to see if restoration funding has been distributed equally. VW is seeking to better serve vulnerable populations of Santa Clara County through its 8 different types of grants for restoration projects. In order to analyze the equity of Valley Water’s grant distribution, we digitized all of the data from past restoration projects since 2010 into a spatial format, using ArcGIS. We identified priority areas in Santa Clara County based on socio-demographic variables such as population, percentage of non-white, and median household income to identify socially vulnerable areas. We also overlaid our own priority areas with two other analyses to validate the areas we recommended as vulnerable. To gather a bottom-up perspective of the grant process, we conducted interviews with 6 local non-profits involved in environmental restoration and education. Based on our spatial analysis, we found that the distribution of grants across the county was often clustered by project type. By assessing the distribution of VW grant funds, we determined that only $3,725,652 of a total of $12,771,826 of awarded funding went to Medium-High and High-priority level communities. Additionally, we found that smaller nonprofits lack the resources for reporting and prefer mini-grants as these are easier to report on. Thus, we recommend that Valley Water focus future restoration projects on the medium and high-priority areas we have outlined in our analysis based on socio-demographic factors as well as essential habitat connectivity and streams. These areas include regions of San Jose, Santa Clara, Morgan Hill, and Gilroy. Lastly, we recommend that VW build a stronger relationship with local nonprofits in a structured system to identify current challenges and gain continuous feedback in their grant process.
An Ethical Analysis of Monterey County’s Contaminated Drinking Water Issue and the Importance of Performance Indicators in Point-of-Use Filtration Devices
Student author: Jo Gopinath
Community partner: Community Water Center
Faculty advisors: David DeCosse and Iris Stewart-Frey
Abstract: This research was a collaboration between the Community Water Center and Santa Clara University, inspired by the need for solutions for out-of-compliance small water systems in Monterey County, CA, where high levels of contaminants, particularly nitrates, are found. The work is based on the proposed Monterey County Point-of-use (POU) / Point-of-entry (POE) Ordinance, which aims to create a system for monitoring the water quality for small water systems in immigrant farm worker communities in the unincorporated areas within the county. The project considers the technical specifications of POU systems and puts their use into the context of risk, safety, and environmental justice, such that the ethical principle of informed consent can be applied. We found that regardless of a device’s performance, it is important to establish an external monitoring protocol that allows for more confidence in a given POU treatment device and minimizes the risk to the users in the community. In addition, the ethical principles of informed consent would include more extensive information and education about the risks and benefits associated with the quality and treatment of the water accessible to these communities.
The Ethics of Conservation and Water Supplies under Drought in California
Student author: Jacqueline Rogers
Faculty advisor: Iris Stewart-Frey
Abstract: Under projected climate changes, droughts are projected to intensify and occur more frequently. These droughts will further stress California’s water supply system. Even without drought, water quality and quantity are unevenly distributed in the state. This project analyzes public attitudes toward conservation and characterizes the priorities of local water districts to identify who is bearing the brunt of limited water supply during drought.