Divergent agricultural water governance scenarios: The case of Zayanderud basin, Iran

Neda Nazemi, Rider W. Foley, Garrick Louis, Lauren Withycombe Keeler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


There is an urgent need to consider adaptation strategies for agricultural water resources in response to the ever-growing demand for freshwater around the world. This is especially poignant in arid and semi-arid regions, like the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) where water resources have been extremely limited historically. Today, water resources are declining due to a variety of factors, including climate change, population growth and changing food preferences. Research on this topic typically seeks to assess the impact of discreet alternative interventions in isolation. However, it is necessary to analyze the broader factors affecting agricultural water management as interconnected components of a complex water governance system within a specific geographic context. This research uses an exploratory, formative scenario planning approach to a) identify important adaptation strategies, b) use those adaptation strategies to construct a small set of coherent, plausible and diverse regional agricultural water governance scenarios, and c) analyze future scenarios of the Zayandehroud watershed in Iran in the year 2040. The research shares five scenarios that exemplify divergent adaptation and mitigation approaches to agriculture water demand in Zayandehroud watershed, including adhering to the status quo. Each scenario embodies different economic and political priorities to reveal how those priorities impact the ecological, social, and economic sustainability of this watershed. These scenarios provide insights into the long-term implications of near-term decisions about water and food security, resilience of local communities and the ecological integrity of the regional watershed. This research explores the conceptual relationships between components of the water governance system and demonstrates an approach to analyzing alternative constellations of factors that will impact agricultural water management. Policy-makers can make more effective policies if they consider how to transform the broader system of regional water governance, rather than only evaluating discrete agricultural water management projects on a project-by-project basis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105921
JournalAgricultural Water Management
StatePublished - Feb 28 2020


  • Adaptive governance
  • Land use planning
  • Local governance
  • Rural development
  • Scenario planning
  • Water market

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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