Integrating Science and Policy: Climate Change Assessments and Water Resources Management

CSS Publication Number: 

This research investigates the supply of climate information by two NOAA RISAs and the use of that information by water managers across five states in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) and the Southwest (SW) United States. A survey (n=2,651) of water managers at Community Water Systems (i.e., non-RISA clients) was conducted to examine information sources, collaborations, and barriers to and drivers of climate information use. Interviews of water managers who worked with the RISAs (i.e., RISA clients) were also conducted to better understand water managers’ use climate information for decision making and for building resilience to climate variability and change. The goal of this mixed method approach was to compare information production and use across: (1) the two RISA programs and regions, (2) decision scales, and (3) RISA clients and non-RISA clients. Results indicate a high rate of information use among RISA clients in both regions that suggests RISAs are successfully bridging the science-policy gap to meet varied decision needs of their clients across scales and distance. However, RISA information use among non-RISA clients was much lower, suggesting RISAs are not able to effectively serve information needs of the broader population of water managers across a large region. The regional RISA comparison revealed a more collaborative approach dominated in the PNW while a more consultative approach dominated in the SW for clients and non-clients using RISA information. Collaboration is important for facilitating the use of climate change information. A trade-off between collaboration and consultation was observed suggesting the provision and subsequent use of climate change information requires more intense interactions. The comparison between client and non-client RISA users suggest that a managed boundary is important particularly for conveying uncertain information. When the boundary between RISA scientists and their clients is managed, information is used even though concern about uncertainty persists. Lastly, findings suggest local water manager clients and non-client information users exhibit more resilience potential than water managers who do not use RISA information. Also, RISAs, acting as part of a knowledge-action system, help states build resilience potential to climate variability and change across scales of decision-making.

climate information use by water managers
water system resilience to climate variability and change
decision making and governance
Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA)
boundary management
Publication Type: 
Date Published: 
August 1, 2010
Persistent URL:
Full Citation: 
Kirchhoff, Christine J., (2010) “Integrating Science and Policy: Climate Change Assessments and Water Resources Management.” Doctoral Dissertation, University of Michigan: Ann Arbor. 1-280.
Admin Content
Publication Status: