The Bear River flows for 500 miles through a highly variable, snow-driven, drought-prone montane ecosystem in the arid region of the western United States. It traverses three states, is diverted to store water in an ecologically unique natural lake (Bear Lake), and empties into the Great Salt Lake at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. People in the Bear River Watershed came to anticipate droughts, building a legal, institutional, and engineered infrastructure to adapt to the watershed's hydrologic realities and historical legacies. Their ways of understanding linked social-ecological vulnerabilities has led to seemingly paradoxical outcomes: irrigation of wetlands like farm fields, USFWS support for dams, wetlands without water rights having a more secure water supply than wetlands with water rights, and farmers without reservoir storage being less vulnerable to drought than farmers with storage and the oldest rights on the river. In this multimedia presentation, we argue that there is a contextualized rationality involved in the way people have organized their relationships with the environment and with each other in that locality which helps to explain these paradoxes.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/karin_kettenring/17/