Unveiling Water Allocation Dynamics: A Text Analysis of 25 Years of Stakeholder Meetings
AbstractManaging water resources in regions with high climate variability and frequent extreme weather events poses challenges for policymakers. To facilitate water allocation in these cases, participatory and collaborative decision-making approaches have become common. However, the evaluation of these approaches is hindered by the lack of structured methods and data to understand them. To address this knowledge gap, we propose a novel methodology that leverages text data to identify key topics, conflicts, and influential actors that shape water allocation dynamics. Our methodology is tested using records of 1020 water basin committee meetings held between 1997 and 2021 across twelve basin committees in Ceará, Brazil-a region known for its extensive history of droughts that have impacted water governance. To uncover key water management issues discussed during these meetings, we employed a three-step topic modeling framework: (1) sentence embedding, (2) dimensionality reduction, and (3) sentence clustering. Furthermore, we used entity recognition, dependency parsing, and network graphs to identify powerful actors influencing these meetings and, ultimately, the decisions taken. Our findings revealed stakeholders' heightened concern for urban water supply over agricultural demand during droughts. We found that "reservoir operation" was the most recurring topic, especially in basins where the strategic reservoirs are located. Discussions related to "climate information" became significantly more important over time, which indicates that water allocation decisions are increasingly based on the seasonal forecast and data on oceanic indices provided by the meteorology agency. Despite the presence of local users in the committees, governmental representatives dominated the discussions and were central in all river basins. In conclusion, our proposed approach harnesses existing text data to uncover spatiotemporal patterns related to participatory water allocation. This study opens new avenues for investigating water governance using text-based analysis.