Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2019

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil Engineering


Shaleen Jain

Second Committee Member

Kate Beard-Tisdale

Third Committee Member

Willem Brutsaert

Additional Committee Members

David Courtemanch

Firooza Pavri

Darren Ranco


Water management approaches have historically optimized water for human use and placed lower emphasis on the relationship between ecosystems and humans. Despite efforts to balance human and ecosystem needs, existing management approaches tend to prioritize some needs, knowledges, and values over others. Natural and anthropogenic changes pose challenges to water governance institutions due to policy inflexibility, and may lead to ecosystem degradation, water stress, and conflict among water users. This work seeks to redress these shortcomings through three scholarly contributions. First, a conceptual framework for Water Resources Stewardship is developed in support of equitable and adaptive solutions under changing conditions. Key elements include attention to the structure of governance, opportunities for stakeholder inclusion, knowledge production and use, and adapting to changes in risk. A meta-analysis of prominent water sector approaches identifies gaps and informs future perspectives. Next, a historical analysis of Maine’s in-stream flow policy is presented. The analysis approach comprises of a) delineation of the rulemaking structure including the sequence and co-evolution of processes therein, b) characterization of events and conditions leading to rulemaking, and c) identification of opportunities and constraints to integrate adaptive policymaking in a water use context undergoing change. Opportunities for learning, integration of diverse stakeholder needs, and infusion of knowledge are needed to enable adaptive processes. Lastly, methodological advancements for assessing precipitation change enables a reassessment of risk to human and ecological systems. A quantile regression approach is used to a) assess annual precipitation relationships with oceanic indices at river basin scales, and b) identify asymmetries with mean precipitation trends at the global scale. Notably, significant land area and populations are overlooked by conventional methods. An extension to rainfed agriculture underscores the need for more accurate appraisal of change and uptake into risk management approaches.

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