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

Project ID: 7515
Principal Investigator: Douglas Clark
Research Topic: Water Marketing
Funded Fiscal Years: 2008, 2009 and 2010
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".

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.

An Exploration of Bureau of Reclamation Approaches for Managing Conflict over Diverging Science (final, PDF, 1.1MB)
By Nina Burkardt, Emily Ruell and Douglas Clark
Report completed on August 21, 2008

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.

Resolving Disputes over Science in Natural Resource Agency Decisionmaking (final, PDF, 237KB)
By Emily Ruell, Nina Burkardt and Douglas Clark
Report completed on August 02, 2011

The objectives of this review are to identify, evaluate, and compare approaches that have been proposed or used to resolve disputes over science in natural resource decisionmaking processes. A great variety of approaches are evaluated including, but not limited to, pursuit of more science, science courts, adapative management, joint fact-finding, peer review processes, multi-attribute trade-off analysis, and collaborative modeling.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20