Many municipalities and water providers have become motivated to investigate the effects of climate variability and climate change on water resources. The primary objective of this project is to evaluate engagements of climate science and water management in three western cities—Denver, CO; Seattle, WA; and Tucson, AZ—and thereby contribute to a critical body of knowledge that will be a guide for other collaborative efforts and, more broadly, provide a possible template for other scientific outreach and coordination efforts, such as an effective national climate service.
In the western US, growing populations, limited resources, and recent drought have placed increased pressure on water resources, prompting many water managers to seek out and utilize climate-related data to better understand the effect that climate variability, and increasingly, climate change has on water supplies. Pertinent climate-related data and research do exist, but this scientific information must be accessible and relevant for decision-makers in order for it to be useful in planning efforts. This requires that climate scientists, resource managers, and decision-makers are effectively working together to connect scientific knowledge to planning and policy in urban areas. This collaborative process includes the participation of many types of experts with different knowledge backgrounds and outcome goals. Increasingly, these interactions are being recognized to be much more complex than simply passing information from one group to another.
Despite advancements in understanding how climate information has been utilized in water resources planning and the development of research models to asses this process, only a small amount of research has actually assessed the outcomes of such interactions. In particular, little is known about what prompts acceptance and interest in climate data by water managers, how the data are used throughout the planning process, and what actual policy outcomes result from the use of climate data. More specifically, unanswered questions include: What processes and interactions have contributed to the integration of climate data in water management? What contributes to more or less successful interactions between scientists and planners? How do experts from different fields understand problems related to climate and water resources and come together to address common concerns?
Through a comparative study of three urban areas that have begun examining the impacts of climate on water resources (Denver, CO; Seattle, WA; Tucson, AZ), we are assessing and evaluating the process of making climate science relevant for decision-making. Fundamentally, we are interested in better understanding how climate science is translated into actual policy requirements or planning standards based on the integration of climate information into water management. Our emphasis is on the processes related to the creation of a knowledge base, enhancement of effective outreach efforts, and strengthening of research partnerships is central to this project. Through this project, we will create methods and informational products for sustaining and enhancing these science-to-action efforts among water managers in the western US. From the lessons learned in this project, we hope that these methods and approaches will be applicable to other regions and sectors that are impacted by climate variability and climate change.
Post-Doctoral Researcher, School of Geography and Development
University of Arizona
Program Director, Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS)
University of Arizona
Associate Professor, School of Geography and Development
University of Arizona
Our overarching goals are first, to determine 1) the key vulnerabilities to climate perceived by these water providers, and 2) how water providers are currently obtaining and incorporating climate information into operational decision making. With this background and context, we will then investigate 3) what existing networks and partnerships are successfully bridging the gap between science and policy in the water sector in these three cities and 4) what challenges still exist in making climate data relevant to water planning.
Using in-depth interviews with key individuals in each municipality and a research model that examines the coproduction of science and policy in an interactive context, this project will assess how Denver, Seattle, and Tucson have incorporated climate data and information into water resource management, with the goal of distilling this information for use in improving ongoing and future science-policy interactions. We have chosen these municipalities because they have all engaged with NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessment (RISA) programs, and they represent a range of geographical and institutional contexts of water management in the western US. To ensure that the project meets the needs of both the providers and users of climate information, the research team will assemble a small advisory board made up of a representative from each water utility and a climate researcher from each of three regional RISAs. Engagement with producers and users of climate knowledge throughout this project will provide a context for water managers and scientists to collectively examine existing partnerships and direct future work. Towards the end of the project, a workshop will be convened to report the results and facilitate discussion among those programs and institutions that are key players in climate knowledge transfer. Emphasis on the creation of a knowledge base, enhancement of effective outreach efforts, and strengthening of research partnerships is central to this project.
The primary products resulting from this project will be a set of fundamental guidelines for understanding how science is integrated into policy and decision making, two publications (one peer-reviewed, one for a decision-maker audience), an assessment of how the three RISA programs and other scientific research centers are doing in communicating with decision-makers, a workshop report, and a guidebook with recommendations for how the transfer of knowledge to policy and planning can be made most effective.
To help ensure that this project is relevant and useful for both the scientists and water managers involved, we have developed a small board of advisers to help guide the project. The advisory board is made up of one representative from each water utility involved and one representative from each of the university-based science groups who have worked with these utilities to provide information about climate. The advisory board members are:
Climate Scientist for the Planning Division
Western Water Assessment
University of Colorado
Manager, Climate & Sustainability Group
Seattle Public Utilities
Associate Director, Climate Impacts Group
University of Washington
Water Resources Management
Water Administrator, Water Resources Management
Insitute of the Environment and Climate Assessment for the Southwest
University of Arizona
Session goal: To briefly introduce the activities of each utility and RISA to the entire group and to provide the opportunity for information sharing among AB members regarding science-management efforts.
8:45am Laurna Kaatz, "Denver Water: Planning for Climate Change"
9:00am Paul Fleming, "Water and Climate Change: Observations from Seattle"
9:15am Ralph Marra and Ries Lindley, "Tucson Water in an Age of Changing Climate"
9:30am Jeff Lukas, "On collaboratons between Denver Water and the Western Water
9:45am Amy Snover, "Providing Regional Climate Services: UW Climate Impacts Group Interactons with Seatle Public Utilities"
10:00am Gregg Garfin, "CLIMAS-Tucson Water Interactions"
Session goal: Facilitate discussion about the following issues in science-management collaborations.
10:30am Group discussion about the following topics regarding the success and challenges of science-management collaborations (about 20 minutes each)
12:00pm LUNCH (working lunch)
Session goal: Prepare strategy for interviews and other data collection.
1:00pm Group discussion about the following issues:
On March 3-4, 2011, our project team convened a capstone workshop to bring together researchers and resource managers to discuss the results of our 18 month study. Visit the workshop page for more information, including the agenda and presentations.
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