An exploration of Bureau of Reclamation approaches for managing conflict over diverging science

Technical Memorandum 86-68211-09-01

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As a major institutional agent supplying Western water resources, the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) provides important leadership, technical, and financial resources in water management, serving as the West's "water broker" (Bowersox 2000; Pisani 2003). In recent years, growing numbers of constituencies using water and the over-allocation of water resources have contributed to conflict over the resource in the American West (National Research Council 2004). Although the conflicts arise from many sources, one common theme is that Reclamation managers often must make decisions about water use and allocation when scientific studies provide uncertain or competing recommendations. We conducted a preliminary study of Reclamation water managers and water scientists to try to understand the approaches or techniques they use or consider useful for dealing with scientific conflicts over water allocation and how these compare to techniques found in the relevant literature.

We report 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.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Federal Government Series
An exploration of Bureau of Reclamation approaches for managing conflict over diverging science
Series title:
Technical Memorandum
Series number:
Year Published:
Bureau of Reclamation
Publisher location:
Denver, CO
Contributing office(s):
Fort Collins Science Center
19 p.
Conference Title:
Institutional Solutions for Water Resource Conflicts Workshop
Conference Location:
Salt Lake City, UT
Conference Date:
September 24-27, 2007