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Operationalizing equity for integrated water resources management

Authors: Cydney K. Seigerman, S. Kyle McKay, Raul Basilio, Shelly A. Biesel, Jon Hallemeier, Andressa V. Mansur, Candice Piercy, Sebastian Rowan, Bruno Ubiali, Elissa Yeates, and Donald R. Nelson

Advancing social equity has been implicitly and explicitly central to water resources policy for decades. Yet, equity remains largely outside of standard water resources planning and management practices. Inclusion of equity within water resources infrastructure is inhibited by barriers including an incomplete conceptual understanding of equity, a perceived lack of quantitative and qualitative equity metrics, unclear connections between equity and standard project planning frameworks, and the absence of concrete examples. To facilitate greater practical inclusion of social equity in water resources practices, we describe equity relative to dimensions of distribution, procedure, and recognition and identify metrics associated with each. We then map these dimensions of equity onto different stages of a water resources project life cycle. We discuss how inequities are often perpetuated by current approaches and highlight case studies that promote one or more of the facets of equity. Rather than providing a prescriptive solution to “achieve” equity within water resources practices, we emphasize the need for contextualized approaches that include pragmatic steps toward more equitable practices and outcomes.

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