Research and Development of a Comprehensive Guide of Tools for Management of Diverging Science in Reclamation Water Allocation Decisions

Project ID: 7645
Principal Investigator: Douglas Clark
Research Topic: Water Marketing
Priority Area Assignments: 2011 (Climate Adaptation)
Funded Fiscal Years: 2011
Keywords: None

Project Abstract

"Research and Development of a Comprehensive Guide of Tools for Management of Diverging Science in Reclamation Water Allocation Decisions" investigated the etiology and resolution of water disputes over science. A dispute over science was defined as "a disagreement with other agencies or stakeholder organizations over technical data, methods, or findings, which are sufficiently serious to impede a water resource management".

When Reclamation personnel were surveyed as to the nature of the scientific conflicts they had faced, they reported back that the predominant conflicts were over biological issues such as T&E and invasive species. However, consumptive use, engineering issues, cultural resources, geomorphological issues, and disputes over supply and demand were also mentioned. Drilling down farther, the researchers learned that purely scientific issues were associated with these broad thematic categories: answering some salient scientific question (eg. the composition of lake sediments), establishing cause and effect (eg. determining the effect of Reclamation operations on a T&E species), classification (eg. identifying wetlands), the competence of scientists, measurement (eg. the accuracy of ET estimates), modeling (eg. numerical modeling analysis of river hydraulic and sediment transport processes), overall project management, and standards (eg. drinking water standards).

A variety of approaches to managing conflict over science showed promise. One involves conducting additional investigations using such tools as joint fact-finding, independent science conducted by outside entities, and sensitivity analysis. A second involved ongoing learning. Tools such as adaptive management, adaptive governance, and collaborative learning belong to this category. A third approach could be called participatory or collaborative. Tools such as multi-attribute decision analysis and multi-party educational efforts fit into this broad category.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Independent Peer Review

The following documents were reviewed by qualified Bureau of Reclamation employees. The findings were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Resolving Disputes over Science in Natural Resource Agency Decionmaking (final, PDF, 229KB)
By Douglas Clark, Nina Burkardt and Emily Ruell
Report completed on April 26, 2012

The literature surrounding methods for managing disputes over science is summarized. A large variety of methods were discovered including, but not limited to, conducting more science, technical forums, scienfic/peer review processes, adaptive management approaches, public education efforts, negotiation, arbitration, mediation, joint fact-finding, multi-attribute analysis, collaborative modeling, and collaborative management. The strengths and weaknesses of each are discussed.

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

An Exploration of Bureau of Reclamation Approaches for Managing Conflict over Diverging Science (final, PDF, 5.1MB)
By Nina Burkardt, Emily Ruell and Douglas Clark
Report completed on April 26, 2012

This document reports the results of (1) an electronic survey of Reclamation senior managers and (2) a panel discussion amongst Reclamation senior managers as to the current institutional capabilities for managing diverging scientific findings in water dispute resolution processes. We conclude with a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the different tools and techniques managers reported in the survey and in the panel discussion.

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Last Updated: 11/15/16