Institute for Water Resources


Shared Vision Planning

Step 6 - Institutionalizing the Plan

The danger in not formalizing the plan is that a change in political or administrative leadership may lead to decay of the plan’s infrastructure.  It must be emphasized that political interest in drought quickly wanes when the crisis is over.

— Donald A. Wilhite (Drought Assessment, 1993)

The Drought Preparedness Study (DPS) team constitutes a new, integrated community that more closely mirrors the integrated nature of the problem shed. But as the team’s planning work nears completion, it must find a way to institutionalize the integrated problem solving approach so that it can outlive the DPS for use in the next drought, for example. To do that, decision makers must approve the recommendations of the DPS team and agree to change the institutions of the entities they manage to reflect that agreement. 

The final selection process of the recommended plan must include negotiations, bearing in mind that what is most important is not the personal opinion of the individuals around the table but general public opinion and the political influence of the organizations that these individuals represent.

 A process that was used in the plan selection workshop in the Kanawha River DPS proved to be very useful for building confidence in the selection process. As part of the workshop, a “Decision Matrix” was prepared, shown in Table 9, which illustrated comparison of impacts, including both economic and non-economic. First, the distinct features of each plan were reviewed and their shared vision model was used to estimate how each alternative would affect the interests of stakeholders. Next, the workshop facilitator, using a table showing each of the planning objectives as column headings and each of the alternatives as rows, scored each alternative from “---” (very negative impact) to “+++” (very positive) for each objective. As he did so, workshop participants were encouraged to debate the rating based on the model outputs and to assign their own ratings on a similar blank score sheet each had received. These simplified ratings merged the performance of the plan on the two design droughts that had been considered and took account of all the measures for each objective. 

Table 9:  Decision Matrix to Illustrate Benefits and Tradeoffs of the Recommended Plan in the Kanawha River Basin DPS

Matrix Table

The scoring in Table 9 shows that two alternatives improved the performance of the system in several objective categories and matched the performance of the status quo in all other objectives. The analysis showed that Plans 4 and 5 helped water quality, rafting and lake recreation, and they did not affect hydropower or navigation. Plan 2 helped rafters but hurt lake recreation; Plan 3 did just the opposite. Because plans 4 and 5 were not mutually exclusive, the workshop participants agreed that a plan that combined the advantages of both should be used during the next drought.

 In cases where stakeholders believe that no alternative reduces impacts enough, the options that remain are:

  • To accept the fact that, even with the best plan, impacts of a severe drought will be very damaging;
  • To decide that the interests of the region would be best protected by pushing for a long-range solution;
  • To agree to pursue the plan that helps most stakeholders;
  • To agree to pursue the plan that helps most stakeholders, but with payments to those who are hurt;
  • To accept a plan in principle, but agree to proceed with it during a drought only if possible losses by some stakeholders do not materialize (because of changed conditions or uncertainties about the structural long-range alternatives; estimates of harm).

If the recommended plan includes changes in existing laws, regulations or structures, then the team should develop a plan to effect those changes. If the recommended plan involves changes in the operation of federal water projects, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires an environmental review.  

In negotiating closure, the connections from Circle A, B and C to Circle D must be exercised. The decision makers who will sign the agreement to institutionalize the recommended plan must be approached and any remaining conditions for their signing negotiated. 

Institutionalization requires written agreement to act according to the findings of the DPS. Operating policies (reservoir or pump station operating plans, or individual drought contingency plans) may have to be revised within the collaborating agencies near or after the completion of the DPS.

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