Patricia Gober

University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

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Publications (81)157.41 Total impact

  • Patricia Gober · Ray Quay · Kelli L. Larson
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    ABSTRACT: Recent efforts to influence the efficiency and timing of urban indoor water use through education, technology, conservation, reuse, economic incentives, and regulatory mechanisms have enabled many North American cities to accommodate population growth and buffer impacts of drought. It is unlikely that this approach will be equally successful into the future because the source of conservation will shift from indoor to outdoor use. Outdoor water is climate sensitive, difficult to measure, hard to predict, linked to other components of complex and dynamic urban resource systems, imbued with behavioral and cultural dimensions, and implicated in societal conflicts about climate risk, modern lifestyles, social justice, and future growth. Outdoor water conservation is not a traditional management problem focused on the water sector, assuming a stationary climate, and set aside from public debate. Instead, outdoor water is an adaptation problem, involving complex and uncertain system dynamics, the need for cross-sector coordination, strategies for dealing with climatic uncertainty, and mechanisms for engaging stakeholders with differing goals. This paper makes the case for treating outdoor water as an adaptation problem and offers a six-point strategy for how cities can better prepare their water systems for the uncertainties of climate and societal change.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2015 · Water Resources Management
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    Kelli Larson · Dave White · Patricia Gober · Amber Wutich

    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · Sustainability
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    ABSTRACT: A warming climate and land management intensification have altered water supply characteristics in many regions of the world. Incorporation of water supply uncertainties into long-term water resources planning and management is, therefore, significant from both a scientific and societal perspective. This study proposes a set of analyses for integrated water resources management under changing water supply and demand expansion based on a newly developed methodology for vulnerability assessment. The basin of interest for the proposed analysis is the interprovincial Saskatchewan River Basin (SaskRB) in Canada, which supports a wide range of water demands, from municipal and industrial use to irrigated agriculture and hydropower. Proposals for an increase in irrigated area are used as a context for exploring the joint effects of current and future water supply uncertainty and increasing irrigation demand conditions on the water resources system. Changing water supply conditions are represented by perturbing annual volumes and the seasonal timing of the hydrograph peak as input to an integrated water resources model. The analysis enables evaluation of the effects of economic development plans as well as variations in volume and peak timing of flows on water availability and economic productivity, including possibilities for failure to meet demands. Results for the SaskRB show that a large increase in irrigated agriculture raises average net revenues, but these are highly dependent on water supply conditions and loss of revenue may arise under drought conditions. Hydropower production is more sensitive to changes in annual inflow volume than to changes in either annual timing of the peak flow or the magnitude of irrigation expansion. Irrigation expansion can considerably affect the peak flows in the Saskatchewan River Delta, the largest inland delta in North America, during low-flow conditions. For example, a 400% increase in irrigated area under a 25% decrease in inflow volume and 4-week-earlier annual peak timing can reduce the frequency of peak flows in the delta by more than 50%, though potential effects on the riparian and aquatic ecosystems remain uncertain. This case study illustrates the practical utility of stochastic analysis of system vulnerability to feasible futures in such a way that socioeconomic trade-offs can be readily visualized and understood. Such performance assessments are useful for long-term water resources planning and management under water supply uncertainty.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management
  • Howard S. Wheater · Patricia Gober
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    ABSTRACT: The freshwater environment is facing unprecedented global pressures. Unsustainable use of surface and groundwater is ubiquitous. Gross pollution is seen in developing economies, nutrient pollution is a global threat to aquatic ecosystems, and flood damage is increasing. Droughts have severe local consequences, but effects on food can be global. These current pressures are set in the context of rapid environmental change and socio-economic development, population growth, and weak and fragmented governance. We ask what should be the role of the water science community in addressing water security challenges. Deeper understanding of aquatic and terrestrial environments and their interactions with the climate system is needed, along with trans-disciplinary analysis of vulnerabilities to environmental and societal change. The human dimension must be fully integrated into water science research and viewed as an endogenous component of water system dynamics. Land and water management are inextricably linked, and thus more cross-sector coordination of research and policy is imperative. To solve real-world problems, the products of science must emerge from an iterative, collaborative, two-way exchange with management and policy communities. Science must produce knowledge that is deemed to be credible, legitimate, and salient by relevant stakeholders, and the social process of linking science to policy is thus vital to efforts to solve water problems. The paper shows how a large-scale catchment-based observatory can be used to practice trans-disciplinary science integration and address the Anthropocene's water problems.
    No preview · Article · Jul 2015
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Water is essential for human development and the environment; however, its security is challenged by factors such as competing uses, over extraction, and divergent perspectives. The focus of this paper is to better understand how different stakeholders define water security in the South Saskatchewan River Basin, a large (121,095 km2) transboundary basin that exemplifies global water security challenges. Understanding the perceptions of water security held by water stewards across multiple jurisdictions working in the public, private, and civil society sectors is critical for policy formulation and implementation. We used Q-method during three workshops to identify the factors that summarize perceptions about water security from water stewards spanning two provinces in Canada. Participants perceived that water security is linked to sustainability through concerns for intergenerational equity, ecosystem maintenance, and ‘balanced’ growth. Study participants generally disagreed with framings of water security that were short-term, self-centred, and narrow. We find some support for risk and vulnerability based framings of water security which centred on ‘reliability’ and ‘limited resources’ as core themes. In particular, the geographic and jurisdictional location as well as the roles of water stewards affected the relative importance of core themes about water security.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2015 · Water Policy
  • Patricia Gober · Howard S. Wheater
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    ABSTRACT: Socio-hydrology views human activities as endogenous to water system dynamics; it is the interaction between human and biophysical processes that threatens the viability of current water systems through positive feedbacks and unintended consequences. Di Baldassarre et al. implement socio-hydrology as a flood risk problem using the concept of social memory as a vehicle to link human perceptions to flood damage. Their mathematical model has heuristic value in comparing potential flood damages in green versus technological societies. It can also support communities in exploring the potential consequences of policy decisions and evaluating critical policy tradeoffs, for example, between flood protection and economic development. The concept of social memory does not, however, adequately capture the social processes whereby public perceptions are translated into policy action, including the pivotal role played by the media in intensifying or attenuating perceived flood risk, the success of policy entrepreneurs in keeping flood hazard on the public agenda during short windows of opportunity for policy action, and different societal approaches to managing flood risk that derive from cultural values and economic interests. We endorse the value of seeking to capture these dynamics in a simplified conceptual framework, but favor a broader conceptualization of socio-hydrology that includes a knowledge exchange component, including the way modeling insights and scientific results are communicated to floodplain managers. The social processes used to disseminate the products of socio-hydrological research are as important as the research results themselves in determining whether modeling is used for real-world decision making.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2015 · Water Resources Research
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    Wen-Ching Chuang · Patricia Gober
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    ABSTRACT: Vulnerability mapping based on vulnerability indices is a pragmatic approach for highlighting the areas in a city where people are at the greatest risk of harm from heat, but the manner in which vulnerability is conceptualized influences the results. We tested a generic national heat-vulnerability index, based on a 10-variable indicator framework, using data on heat-related hospitalizations in Phoenix. We also identified potential local risk factors not included in the generic indicators. To evaluate the accuracy of the generic index in a city-specific context, we used factor scores, derived from a factor analysis using census tract-level characteristics, as independent variables and heat hospitalizations (with census tracts categorized as zero-, moderate-, or high-incidence) as dependent variables in a multinomial logistic regression model. We also compared the geographical differences between a vulnerability map derived from the generic index and one derived from actual heat-related hospitalizations at the census-tract scale. We found that the national-indicator framework correctly classified just over half (54%) of census tracts in Phoenix. Compared with all census tracts, high-vulnerability tracts that were misclassified by the index as zero-vulnerability tracts had higher average income and higher proportions of residents with a duration of residency < 5 years. The generic indicators of vulnerability are useful, but they are sensitive to scale, measurement, and context. Decision makers need to consider the characteristics of their cities to determine how closely vulnerability maps based on generic indicators reflect actual risk of harm.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015 · Environmental Health Perspectives
  • Seung-Jae Lee · Heejun Chang · Patricia Gober
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    ABSTRACT: Critical to effective urban climate adaptation is a clearer understanding of the sensitivities of resource demand to changing climatic conditions and land cover situations. We used Bayesian Maximum Entropy (BME) stochastic procedures to estimate temperature and precipitation at the very small scale of urban Census Block Groups (CBGs) in Phoenix, Arizona and Portland, Oregon, and then compared average household water use patterns by climate conditions and land cover characteristics between and within the two cities. Summer household water use was positively related to maximum temperatures and dense vegetation cover in terms of grass cover and trees and shrubs; it was negatively related to precipitation amounts in both cities. Water use was more sensitive to maximum temperature, precipitation levels, and vegetation cover in Phoenix than in Portland. There was substantial intra-city variation with greater sensitivity in urban water use associated with higher densities of trees and shrubs in both cities, but in Phoenix, the highest sensitivities to maximum temperatures occurred in CBGs with the most grass cover while in Portland, high sensitivity was associated with CBGs with the least grass cover. Many of the latter are in highly built-up downtown areas of Portland where artificial irrigation is required to maintain landscapes during the hot summer season. Take-home messages are: (1) BME space/time statistics provide efficient estimates of missing precipitation and temperature data to create continuous high resolution meteorological data that improve water demand analysis and (2) use of landscaping for urban climate adaptation will have differing impacts on water use, depending on local climate conditions, urban layout, and the type of vegetation cover.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2015 · Stochastic Environmental Research and Risk Assessment
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    ABSTRACT: Central to the Smart Growth movement is that compact development reduces vehicle miles traveled, carbon emissions, and water use. Empirical efforts to evaluate compact development have examined residential densities but have not distinguished decreasing lot sizes from multifamily apartments as mechanisms for compact development. Efforts to link design features to water use have emphasized single-family at the expense of multifamily housing. This study isolates the determinants of water use in large (more than fifty units) apartment complexes in the city of Tempe, Arizona. In July 2007, per bedroom water use increased with pool area, dishwashers, and in-unit laundry facilities. We are able to explain nearly 50 percent of the variation in water demand with these variables. These results inform public policy for reducing water use in multifamily housing structures, suggesting strategies to construct and market “green” apartment units.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2014 · The Professional Geographer
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    ABSTRACT: Using a system dynamics approach, an integrated water resources system model is developed for scenario analysis of the Saskatchewan portion of the transboundary Saskatchewan River Basin in western Canada. The water resources component is constructed by emulating an existing Water Resources Management Model. Enhancements include an irrigation sub-model to estimate dynamic irrigation demand, including alternative potential evapotranspiration estimates, and an economic sub-model to estimate the value of water use for various sectors of the economy. Results reveal that the water resources system in Saskatchewan becomes increasingly sensitive to the selection of evapotranspiration algorithm as the irrigation area increases, due to competition between hydropower and agriculture. Preliminary results suggest that irrigation expansion would decrease hydropower production, but might increase the total direct economic benefits to Saskatchewan. However, indirect costs include reduction in lake levels and river flows.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · Environmental Modelling and Software
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    ABSTRACT: Environmental policy discussion is replete with references to water security, food security, ecosystem health, community resilience, sustainable development, and sustainable urbanism. These terms are, by their very nature, ambiguous and difficult to define; they allow room, however, for a variety of actors to conceptualize water, food, ecological, economic, and urban problems in ways that allow them to move forward on contentious issues. This article focuses on the idea of water security and asks how it is conceptualized and used for regional policy debate in western Canada. We asked fifty-eight water stakeholders from the Saskatchewan River Basin to define water security, identify major barriers to security, and prioritize water problems. Responses showed there are myriad ways to think about water security, ranging from narrow conceptualizations, such as reliability, quality, and quantity, to broader sustainability perspectives about the nature of resource development and its social and economic consequences. The human dimensions of water security (governance, land use, and competing demands) were assigned higher priority than its biophysical aspects (flooding, droughts, and climate change). Framing water security to emphasize the human capacity to manage uncertain and rapid biophysical and societal change offers the opportunity to unite actors who otherwise would be separated by core environmental values, definitions of water security, provincial context (Alberta vs. Saskatchewan), and occupation.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2014 · The Professional Geographer
  • Patricia Gober
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    ABSTRACT: Climate change challenges water managers to make decisions about future infrastructure and the adequacy of current supplies before the uncertainties of the climate models and their hydrological impacts are resolved. Water managers thus face the classic problem of decision making under uncertainty (DMUU). The aim of DMUU is not to be paralyzed by uncertainty, but to highlight and use it to better manage risk. Strategies for DMUU include scenario planning, exploratory simulation modeling, robust decision making, and anticipatory planning and governance. These tools imply a new role for social scientists in the fields of water science and engineering and a new relationship between water science and the practitioner community. Examples are drawn from Phoenix, Arizona, and the US Southwest for DMUU support tools and strategies for science-policy engagement. Simulation experiments for Phoenix reveal challenging, but feasible, strategies for climate adaptation in the water sector for all but the most dire future climate conditions.
    No preview · Chapter · Jan 2014
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    ABSTRACT: The connection between scientific knowledge and environmental policy is enhanced through boundary organizations and objects that are perceived to be credible, salient, and legitimate. In this study, water resource decision-makers evaluated the knowledge embedded in WaterSim, an interactive simulation model of water supply and demand presented in an immersive decision theater. Content analysis of individual responses demonstrated that stakeholders were fairly critical of the model's validity, relevance, and bias. Differing perspectives reveal tradeoffs in achieving credible, salient, and legitimate boundary objects, along with the need for iterative processes that engage them in the co-production of knowledge and action.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2013 · Science and Public Policy
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    ABSTRACT: Research on how heat impacts human health has increased as climate change threatens to raise temperatures to new extremes. Excessive heat exposure increases death rates, as well as rates of nonfatal, adverse health outcomes. This study used the negative binomial regression model to examine the relationship between daily maximum temperature, heat index, and heat-related emergency calls in Phoenix, Arizona and Chicago, Illinois, from 2003 to 2006. Using model results, we estimated call volumes in a warmer climate, with temperature increase from 1 to 5.5 °C. We found that: (1) heat-stress calls increase sharply when the temperature exceeds about 35 °C in Chicago and in 45 °C Phoenix; (2) warmer climate could seriously threaten human health and existing emergency response system in Chicago more than in Phoenix. Policies to reduce heat impacts in Phoenix should focus on reducing prolonged heat exposure, while Chicago should build a strong early-warning system for extreme heat events and provide sufficient resources and infrastructure to mitigate heat stress during those events.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2013 · Urban Climate
  • Howard Wheater · Patricia Gober
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper, we discuss the multiple dimensions of water security and define a set of thematic challenges for science, policy and governance, based around cross-scale dynamics, complexity and uncertainty. A case study of the Saskatchewan River basin (SRB) in western Canada is presented, which encompasses many of the water-security challenges faced worldwide. A science agenda is defined based on the development of the SRB as a large-scale observatory to develop the underpinning science and social science needed to improve our understanding of water futures under societal and environmental change. We argue that non-stationarity poses profound challenges for existing science and that new integration of the natural sciences, engineering and social sciences is needed to address decision making under deep uncertainty. We suggest that vulnerability analysis can be combined with scenario-based modelling to address issues of water security and that knowledge translation should be coupled with place-based modelling, adaptive governance and social learning to address the complexity uncertainty and scale dynamics of contemporary water problems.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2013 · Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society A Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences
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    ABSTRACT: The coupled processes of climate change and urbanization pose challenges for water resource management in cities worldwide. Comparing the vulnerabilities of water systems in Phoenix, Arizona and Portland, Oregon, this paper examines (1) exposures to these stressors, (2) sensitivities to the associated impacts, and (3) adaptive capacities for responding to realized or anticipated impacts. Based on a case study and survey-based approach, common points of vulnerability include: rising exposures to drier, warmer summers, and suburban growth; increasing sensitivities based on demand hardening; and limited capacities due to institutional and pro-growth pressures. Yet each region also exhibits unique vulnerabilities. Comparatively, Portland shows: amplified exposures to seasonal climatic extremes, heightened sensitivity based on less diversified municipal water sources and policies that favor more trees and other irrigated vegetation, and diminished adaptive capacities because of limited attention to demand management and climate planning for water resources. Phoenix exhibits elevated exposure from rapid growth, heightened sensitivities due to high water demands and widespread increases in residential and commercial uses, and limited adaptive capacities due to weak land use planning and "smart growth" strategies. Unique points of vulnerability suggest pathways for adapting to urban-environmental change, whether through water management or land planning. Greater coordination between the land and water sectors would substantially reduce vulnerabilities in the study regions and beyond.
    No preview · Article · May 2013 · Environmental Management
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    ABSTRACT: This study addresses a classic sustainability challenge-the tradeoff between water conservation and temperature amelioration in rapidly growing cities, using Phoenix, Arizona and Portland, Oregon as case studies. An urban energy balance model-LUMPS (Local-Scale Urban Meteorological Parameterization Scheme)-is used to represent the tradeoff between outdoor water use and nighttime cooling during hot, dry summer months. Tradeoffs were characterized under three scenarios of land use change and three climate-change assumptions. Decreasing vegetation density reduced outdoor water use but sacrificed nighttime cooling. Increasing vegetated surfaces accelerated nighttime cooling, but increased outdoor water use by ~20%. Replacing impervious surfaces with buildings achieved similar improvements in nighttime cooling with minimal increases in outdoor water use; it was the most water-efficient cooling strategy. The fact that nighttime cooling rates and outdoor water use were more sensitive to land use scenarios than climate-change simulations suggested that cities can adapt to a warmer climate by manipulating land use.
    Full-text · Article · May 2013 · Urban Geography
  • Patricia Gober
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    ABSTRACT: Discriminant analysis was used to investigate the empirical underpinnings of the labels, "Sunbelt" and "Frostbelt." Nine study variables were chosen to represent structural, economic, and population characteristics in 158 SMSAs with 1980 populations over 200,000. The results show that SMSAs in the Sunbelt have lower densities; they house larger minority populations who are less likely to participate in the political process; and their economies are less oriented to manufacturing. In terms of the regional convergence-uneven development debate, results favor the uneven development thesis. The fact that Sunbelt metropolitan areas house populations that are different from their Frostbelt counterparts and perform different social roles and functions in the national space economy suggests they represent a new form of urban development rather than a manifestation of heretofore lagging regions converging with traditional centers of development.
    No preview · Article · May 2013 · Urban Geography
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    P. Gober · H. S. Wheater
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    ABSTRACT: While there is popular perception that Canada is a water-rich country, the Saskatchewan River Basin (SRB) in Western Canada exemplifies the multiple threats to water security seen worldwide. It is Canada's major food-producing region and home to globally-significant natural resource development. The SRB faces current water challenges stemming from: (1) a series of extreme events, including major flood and drought events, since the turn of the 21st century, (2) full allocation of existing water resources in parts of the Basin, (3) rapid population growth and economic development, (4) increasing pollution, and (5) fragmented governance that includes the Provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, various Federal and First Nations responsibilities, and international boundaries. The interplay of these factors has increased competition for increasingly scarce water resources across economic sectors and among provinces, between upstream and downstream users, between environmental flows and human needs, and among people who hold different values about the meaning, ownership, and use of water. These current challenges are set in a context of significant environmental and societal change, including widespread land modification, climate warming, and deep uncertainties about future water supplies. We outline the geographic setting of the SRB and its environmental history, and then discuss the major challenges to water security from: (1) environmental change, (2) rapid growth and economic development, and most importantly, (3) a governance model unsuited to managing complex and uncertain water systems. We conclude with a discussion of the emerging field of socio-hydrology and what it can contribute to knowledge translation, water management, policy, and governance in the SRB and worldwide.
    Preview · Article · May 2013 · Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions
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    ABSTRACT: Increasing evidence demonstrates that unsustainable land use practices result in human-induced drought conditions, and inadequate water supplies constrain land development in growing cities. Nonetheless, organizational barriers impair coordinated land and water management. Land planning is strongly influenced by political realities and interest groups, while water management is focused on the single-minded goal of providing reliable water for future development, often set apart from other priorities. Survey results from Portland, OR, and Phoenix, AZ, show that water managers and land planners are generally aware of the physical interconnections between land and water, but there is little cross-sector involvement in the two cities. Focusing on shared concerns about outdoor water use, climate variability, and water-sensitive urban design is a fruitful first step in integrating the practices of land planning and water management for climate adaptation and sustainable resource use.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2013 · Society and Natural Resources

Publication Stats

2k Citations
157.41 Total Impact Points


  • 2013-2015
    • University of Saskatchewan
      • Department of Civil and Geological Engineering
      Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • 1981-2015
    • Arizona State University
      • • School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning
      • • Decision Theater
      Tempe, Arizona, United States
  • 2011
    • Escola Superior de Sustentabilidade
      Aquidaban, Sergipe, Brazil
  • 2002
    • The University of Arizona
      Tucson, Arizona, United States