Complexity

Playing with models and optimization to overcome the tragedy of the commons in groundwater

Journal Article

  • Author(s): O. López‐Corona, P. Padilla, O. Escolero, F. Armas, R. García‐Arrazola, R. Esparza
  • Article first published online: 20 Aug 2013
  • DOI: 10.1002/cplx.21462
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Groundwater is the natural resource most extracted in the world. It supplies 50% of the total potable water requirements, 40% of the industry take, and 20% of agriculture groundwater is a strategic resource for every country. That common‐pool resources are highly susceptible to lead to a tragedy of the commons is a well‐known fact. We claim that a combination of groundwater modeling, optimization, and a game theoretical analysis may in fact avoid the tragedy. A groundwater model in MODFLOW from Zamora aquifer in Mexico was used as input of a basic but instructive, optimization problem: extract the greatest possible volume of water, but at the same time minimizing the drawdown and drawdown velocity. The solutions of the optimization problem were used to construct the payoffs of a hypothetical game among the aquifer users, the resource's administrator, and a resource protector entity. We show that the success of the optimal management program depends heavily on the information that the users have about the resource. Therefore, better decision‐making processes are a consequence of sustainability literacy. Particularly, water literacy could lead to the usage of water considering it as a part of an ecosystem and not only as a natural resource. Additionally, a new non‐classical equation for underground flow was derived, that may be specially important to understand and predict the groundwater flow in highly heterogeneous conditions as in karstic aquifers or fractured media. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Complexity 19: 9–21, 2013

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