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This information is intended to convey the underlying concepts for Reclamation's decision processes. It is not mandatory.
See the Reclamation Manual for official Reclamation-wide requirements.

Reclamation's Decision Process Guide


go through page Indicators / Develop indicators / Sample indicators / Go On

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navigate in the page--Indicators

You can't measure and analyze everything --and you don't need to.

There are times when reports seem to contain everything but the kitchen sink.

Unfortunately, you only needed to wash dishes.

Find a particular indicator (a key part of a resource or issue that can be measured) that generally reflects impacts*definition to an entire resource. For example, the amount of flows at Hellfire Rapids may indicate rafting quality for the entire Jordan River--or levels of Cladophora (blue green algae) may show the relative abundanc e of native fish. Do a reality check to ensure your indicators measure what you need.

Show why an indicator was chosen, how it interacts with the resource as a whole, and then measure impacts to it consistently under all alternatives. Keeping frequency charts can help determine which indicators to use. A matrix table showing all indicators and alternatives provides the public and decisionmakers with a quick way to determine which alternative will have what impact on the resources.

Measure what will be significant to the decision.

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navigate in the page--How to Develop Indicators

Depending on the complexity of issues, break into small groups during one long meeting or plan for two meetings to allow time for research.

TIP : Document this and use these explanations as introductions to resources (e.g. Chapter 4, Impacts, in an EIS)

1. Identify the action and resources of concern.

The entire team gets together to:

  1. Define the proposed action in one sentence (e.g., Ensure a stable water supply for the Crystal River Valley).
  2. Identifies the "resources of concern" to address. (This may not be as obvious as it sounds. Review Step 1, needs and Step 2, objectives to determine what the needs and issues will be addressed. Then use the lists of resources in Step 3 to help determine which resources match the needs and issues. (e.g., water quality, water supplies, endangered species, recreation, economic development).

2. Draft indicators for each resource

The team leader identifies the spokesperson for each resource. This spokesperson will document the decision process and the assumptions made for his or her resource as they are developed during this exercise.

The team members involved with each resource break into small groups and determine indicators for impacts on their resource from each alternative.

To do this:

  1. Develop an issue statement for the resourceto show its importance and interrelationships (e.g., Drinking water standards need to be met at Crystal Village. Purple cutthroat trout and the blunt nose sucker fish depend on xx quality water).
  2. Determine potential impacts. (e.g., poor water quality in the Crystal River will lower populations in Crystal Village, create more demands on groundwater, may create groundwater quality problems).
  3. Identify what indicators can be used to represent these impacts (e.g., Selenium levels at the gauge above Crystal Village)
  4. Determine if these indicators can reasonably be extrapolated to represent impacts on the entire resource (e.g., Can water quality at Crystal Village indicate water quality along the Crystal River? Can impacts on cutthroat trout to represnt impacts on all non-native fish?).
  5. Document the assumptions and rationale for the indicator (Why do you feel it can represent the resource?)
  6. Test the indicators. Will they explain no action conditions as well as future conditions under other alternatives?
  7. Determine measurement units that will readily describe impacts (e.g., parts per million, parts per billion, survival rates). If you have difficulties with this, step back and re-evaluate the selected impact indicator.
  8. Develop an indicator statement. Explain the link between the resource and the indicator. Show how this indicator will answer the question: How would (the action) affect (the resource)?

3. Refine and Integrate the indicators

The entire team gets together to ensure that indicators will be compatible. Resources and proposed indicators should be listed on a sheet so all can see them. Each resource spokesperson explains:

  • The resource
  • Resource issue
  • How the resource relates to other resources
  • Indicators of impacts
  • Measurement units
  • Assumptions made

The team then determines:

  • Do indicators show the relationships between resources? (explain contradictions --what is good for caddis-eating trout is not good for ground-dwelling catfish)
  • Will decisionmakers and publics be able to determine relevant impacts from these indicators?
  • Will these indicators provide a reasonable overall picture of impacts from each alternative?
  • Are measurement units compatible for comparisons (e.g., compare acre feet to acre feet, not cubic feet per second).

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navigate in the page--Sample Indicators


  • Surface water (streamflow in cfs or stage)
  • Groundwater (depletions in acre-feet)
  • Floodflows (magnitude or frequency)
  • Water quality (xxppb cadmium)
  • Municipal and Industrial use (acre-feet)
  • Onfarm use (value of crops)


  • Stream sport fish (cfs, temperature at xx place, stage)
  • Stream native fish (cfs, temperature at xx place, stage)


  • Riparian habitat (acres, specific plants, mean annual flow in cfs in selected reaches)
  • Wetland habitat (acres, specific plants, mean annual flow in cfs in selected reaches)

Special Status Species

  • Species (roosting, feeding, nesting habitat)


  • Stream use (annual visitor days linked to cfs or stage)
  • Recreation economics ($)

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navigate in the page--Go On

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Please contact Deena Larsen 303-445-2584 with questions or comments on this material.