Date of Award

January 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Earth System Science & Policy

First Advisor

Andrei Kirilenko


Devils Lake (DL), a closed-basin lake in northeastern North Dakota of the USA, has risen 10 m since 1991 exhibiting a costly, lengthy and litigious water management wicked problem in the region. With nearly US $1.5 billion already spent in flood mitigation, DL is less than 2 m from its uncontrolled overspill to the nearby Sheyenne River, a tributary of the Red River of the North that connects to Lake Winnipeg in Canada. In this study, three important concerns related to DL water management are being addressed: (1) Are currently implemented outlets capable of mitigating potential risks posed by climate change? (2) Can land use management practices mitigate the long-term flood risk under changing climate? (3) Does DL water management, under uncertain future environmental changes, demand a new cooperative policy framework to avoid future conflicts? It was found that the DL climate projections indicate overall rise in precipitation (2.7–3.4%) and temperature (0.4–4.0°C) in DL region for the next few decades resulting into 7.3–20.0% risk of DL overspill into the Sheyenne River in the absence of outlets. However, it was found that the assumed outlets running under the full capacity with 17.0 m3/s of water pumped out of the lake are able to prevent the overspill even under the changed climate conditions. It was also found that the flood mitigation with economically feasible changes in land use change the DL overspill risk to 5.0–21.1%, and therefore cannot be considered an alternative to the outlet-based mitigation when used alone. Land use practices aimed at maximization of crop yield actually increase flood risks, while the scenarios maximizing the grassland conservation and alfalfa production are found to lower the surface runoff and overspill risks significantly. The survey of the regional stakeholders indicated concerns about a lack of climate change understanding, dominance of private land ownership, inadequate land conservation funding, and the absence of one ‘go-to’ organization with legislative power, which suggest that DL water management under aggravated environmental conditions will escalate further. Therefore, a new framework that fosters multi-actor, multi-scale consultation and collaboration- a green paradiplomacy is recommended for a long-term management of this wicked problem.