The Global Ethnohydrology Study is a transdisciplinary multi-year, multi-site program of research that examines the range of variation in local ecological knowledge of water issues, also known as “ethnohydrology.” Using cutting-edge systematic ethnographic methods drawn from anthropology that allow us to understand how and why culture (perceptions, norms and beliefs) is shaped ecologically and varies from person to person and place to place, we can better discern both the particularities and generalities about how we all see and respond to water issues, local and global. We focus on showing how factors, such as increasing urbanization, water scarcity and climate change, are related to changes in cultural ideas and knowledge. One outcome of the project has been innovation in how cultural data can be collected, analyzed and interpreted in ways that allow meaningful comparison across diverse settings.
This innovative study was initiated in Phoenix, Arizona (United States), with funding from the United States National Science Foundation’s Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) and Central-Arizona Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research Project (CAP LTER) programs. With the studies focused in Phoenix as its first phase, the Global Ethnohydrology Study has subsequently focused on examining cross-cultural understandings of water institutions, or the rules and norms used to distribute water, and water scarcity, including in relation to climate change, health and sustainability throughout the globe.