Diaz, H. F., and B. J. Morehouse, 2003: Climate and water in transboundary contexts: An introduction. In Climate and Water: Transboundary Challenges in the Americas, H. F. Diaz and B. J. Morehouse (Eds.), Kluwer Academic Publishers, 3-24.


In many parts of the world, population growth, urbanization trends, and economic development and restructuring have elevated water resource issues to unprecedented importance. Even modest variations in supply or demand can generate large social consequences. As management and control of water resources has grown as a political and economic force in most parts of the world, understanding the potential impacts of current and future climate conditions on hydrologic processes and water supplies has become ever more critical.

Today, more than ever, comprehensive treatment of water and climate issues requires consideration not only of multiple temporal and spatial scales but also of the influences of boundaries, border regions, ecotones, interstices, and other "gray areas" that may separate physical and human systems. Clearly, natural processes and impacts neither begin nor end at boundaries. Yet boundaries often have a significant influence on decisions made and actions taken, whether in anticipation of or response to natural or human events. Boundaries may also, of course, have a significant influence on how these events, decisions, and actions affect the area and its inhabitants. Sensitivity and vulnerability to climatic and hydrologic stresses in transboundary settings may, however, differ considerably from one side of the boundary to the other, based on relative access and ability to use information, levels of technology, institutional structure, access to resources, and other factors. Likewise, considerable challenges exist with regard to integrating climatological and hydrological information into water resources management. For example, differences in availability and compatibility of data, data collection and archiving techniques, interpretation, and communication add further complications to management issues ranging from control over sources and production of water, latitude to manage water demand, and authority to make -- and act on -- decisions.

In response to the lack of a substantial body of scientific research that examines the implications of boundaries and border areas for integrated climate-hydrology-human factors research, we organized a special symposium on the topic. This symposium, entitled Climate, Water, and Transboundary Challenges in the Americas, was held July 16-20, 2000. The meeting brought together climatologists, hydrologists, and social scientists representing North, Central, and South America to discuss research activities, research needs, and challenges associated with trying to build a better understanding of the interactions among climate, hydrology, water resources, and society. Individual sessions examined transboundary equity, sustainability issues, transboundary indicators, interactions between climate variability and transboundary water management, case studies, the roles of organizations and of integrated assessments in water resource planning and management, and using climate information for water resource management in border areas. The chapters included in this volume reflect the variety of approaches and perspectives represented at the symposium and provide insights into the opportunities and challenges posed by boundary contexts.

[Abstract courtesy of H. F. Diaz.]