Drought and declining reservoirs: Comparing media discourse in Arizona and New Mexico, 2002-2004

John Sonnett, Barbara J. Morehouse, Thomas D. Finger, Gregg Garfin, Nicholas Rattray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Media discourses about drought impacts on lakes and reservoirs in Arizona and New Mexico between 2002 and 2004 are compared to show how discursive contexts shape the framing of drought in temporal and spatial scales. Discursive contexts in the two states are shaped by their cultural and political histories and the differential development of water delivery infrastructures. Quantitative mapping of keywords in the states' main newspapers shows how New Mexico experienced more conflict and Arizona more surprise about the drought. Qualitative case studies link these patterns to variation in framing between the states. In particular, the shorter temporal scale in New Mexico is linked to a greater sense of emergency, while the longer temporal scale in Arizona reflects the buffering of urban populations from drought through water delivery infrastructure. The finer spatial scale in Arizona, focusing on urban concerns, reflects an established infrastructure of reservoirs while the broader spatial scale in New Mexico, incorporating both rural and urban concerns, reflects a less developed physical infrastructure and greater prevalence of water rights conflicts. This study illustrates the usefulness of a multifaceted approach to the study of media discourse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-113
Number of pages19
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Content analysis
  • Discourse
  • Drought
  • Framing
  • Newspapers
  • Temporal and spatial scales

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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