Linking science with environmental decision making: Experiences from an integrated modeling approach to supporting sustainable water resources management
The call for more effective integration of science and decision making is ubiquitous in environmental management. While scientists often complain that their input is ignored by decision makers, the latter have also expressed dissatisfaction that critical information for their decision making is often not readily available or accessible to them, or not presented in a usable form. It has been suggested that scientists need to produce more “usable” information with enhanced credibility, legitimacy, and saliency to ensure the adoption of research results. In basin-scale management of coupled human-water systems, water resources managers, like other decision makers, are frequently confronted with the need to make major decisions in the face of high system complexity and uncertainty. The integration of useful and relevant scientific information is necessary and critical to enable informed decision-making. This paper describes the main aspects of what has been learned in the process of supporting sustainable water resources planning and management in the semi-arid southwestern United States by means of integrated modeling. Our experience indicates that particular attention must be paid to the proper definition of focus questions, explicit conceptual modeling, a suitable modeling strategy, and a formal scenario analysis approach in order to facilitate the development of “usable” scientific information. We believe that these lessons and insights can be useful to other scientific efforts in the broader area of linking environmental science with decision making.