Arizona State University

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FY 2018 Community Conversations Research

Executive Summary

In 2017, monsoon rainfall caused moderate flooding in the border cities of Nogales, AZ and Nogales, Sonora resulting in excessive rainfall that overwhelmed local drainage system and leading to the failure of a sewage pipe the carries waste of more than 300,000 people to a water treatment facility in Arizona. This event came as no surprise to local residents: public infrastructure had not been maintained or updated to keep pace with the population growth in the Ambos Nogales. At this point, the community of Ambos Nogales is at an impasse with no commitment of financial resources for infrastructure repair. Resident face water pollution (e.g., E.coli, heavy metals) and flooding on a regular basis. Thematically, the proposed research in Ambos Nogales--a transborder region along the Arizona and Mexican border--sits at the intersection of community resilience to disasters, water resource management, and environmental/public health. Methodologically, this research advances knowledge in the area of social capital, civic engagement for hazard risk reduction and participatory methods in a transborder environment.

Research Objectives: (1) Evaluate how different problem conceptualizations (mental models) among stakeholders relate to propensity towards civic engagement generally and risk management more specifically; (2) Assess whether participatory strategy-building approaches can foster enhanced problem engagement and social capital among stakeholders; and (3) Provide insights into how perceptions on responsibility (cause & response) in relation to environmental risks facilitates or inhibits community engagement in risk management.

Research Questions: (1) How and to what degree was the 2017 flooding and sewage disaster perceived as a problem by stakeholders and how did it compare to past disasters? (2) What impacts did the disaster have on residents and/or the community and if so, what actions did community members take before or after the disaster, and why? (3) What are the perceived causal connections (physical, social, institutional, environmental) leading up to the disasters? (4) In what forms of civic engagement do residents in Ambos Nogales participate and what were/are issues or concerns hampering civic engagement pre- and post-disaster? And (5) What are the different, perceived pathways to "recovery" (e.g., green infrastructure) and what forms of civic engagement are critical to ensure that all residents, especially vulnerable populations, recover?

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