Agriculture & Water in the West: A Community Takes Charge

Future water supplies for irrigated agriculture in the US Southwest and northwest Mexico will be reduced, less reliable, and more expensive. Many of these rural agricultural regions are groundwater dependent. The Sulphur Springs Valley in southeastern Arizona’s Cochise County is one such region. The area has a rich agricultural history of resilient and dedicated farmers and ranchers, but their water source is at risk. Groundwater pumping is exceeding the natural recharge capabilities of the aquifer.

In September 2023, the Babbitt Center, with our partners at Arizona State University’s Water Innovation Initiative and Lincoln Institute’s Consortium for Scenario Planning, brought together farmers, ranchers, residents, city and county officials, and business leaders from the Sulphur Springs Valley to find common ground for their groundwater-dependent future.

Using a unique and effective planning process known as exploratory scenario planning (XSP), 40 community members gathered to consider what a resilient future could look like for their agricultural county. The facilitated workshop utilized XSP to assist water users and policy leaders—whose views about groundwater management diverged—in planning for uncertain economic, social, and climate trends affecting the future of water and agriculture.

The workshop helped participants identify dozens of adaptive strategies they can work on together to increase water resilience. Inspired by their experience, local leaders have established the Sulphur Springs Water Alliance to guide and coalesce priorities, promote regular communication, share progress and opportunities, and create working groups to implement consensus-driven strategies.

Definition of XSP

Exploratory scenario planning, or XSP, helps community members prepare for probable, desired, and uncertain futures while pursuing an overarching vision, rather than relying on a single, presumed future. It explores the root drivers, or causes, of possible futures, allowing planners to consider multiple potential paths, and makes it highly useful in planning for uncertainty.

Watch the video trailer.

Additional resources

Learn more about the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy, the Babbitt Center’s Water-Resilient Agriculture efforts, and the previous XSP workshop.

View all videos of the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy.

Learn more about the Consortium for Scenario Planning.

Learn more about the Arizona Water Innovation Initiative (AWII), a multi-year partnership with the state led by Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory in collaboration with the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. AWII’s Impact Water – Arizona program is additionally supported by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.


resolución de conflictos, medio ambiente, agua, planificación hídrica