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Shared Vision Planning

NDS - Step 3 - The Status Quo

A DPS goes beyond a simple determination of future resource conflicts; it serves as a motivator for conflict resolution. Without knowing your status quo future, you lack a basis for motivation. After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, why plan any changes?

— Richard Punnett (Huntington District, Corps of Engineers)

Whether the subject is property lines, mountain elevations or drought impacts, measurements cannot be compared unless they are referenced to a baseline. The third step of the Drought Preparedness Study (DPS) planning method is to create a baseline by describing the future without the DPS. This future without the DPS is referred to as the status quo.  

The status quo can also provide motivation to a DPS team to produce results because the status quo is a thoughtful, detailed and collective forecast of what the future will bring if they do not.

The effects of drought contingency plans, water laws and institutions as they currently exist should be reflected in the status quo. This should include the basic water allocation system, of either riparian or appropriation type, any site-specific programs, provisions for public trust and instream flows, water conservation, transbasin diversions, and ground water management. The DPS team must now try to quantify the problems that were identified in general terms earlier in the process. To do that, they will: 

  • Build a model of the water management system, called a shared vision model (the model should include the relationship between shortfalls in water deliveries or levels and the impact on stakeholders);
  • Make hydrologic estimates of drought frequency, and select the design droughts;
  • Measure the performance of the water system during the design droughts.

The shared vision model of the status quo should define the relationship between water and the stakeholders’ ultimate purposes for using water. These relationships can be developed though interviews with principal stakeholders. The specific situation of each stakeholder may even be modeled during the interview. In the example illustrated below, one stakeholder is an industry that uses water drawn from a stream as part of its production process. In a severe drought, stream water surfaces may drop so low that the intake is no longer submerged. Figure 2 illustrates how the relationship between stakeholders’ ultimate needs and the water management system can be diagrammed.

Diagram of the system to model the status quo

Figure 2:  Diagram of the system to model the status quo

In this example, employment and deliveries — the factors most directly related to stakeholder profitability and viability — are dependent on production, which in turn requires processing water. These functions can be defined based on existing and new studies and interviews with the stakeholders during the DPS. In the model, the supply of processing water is a function of surface water elevations at the water intake, which is in turn a function of streamflows at that point. (These relationships may have been developed by observation or separate hydraulic modeling efforts.)

The model also depicts the reservoir storage, inflow, release and the rules governing releases. The shared vision model now includes all the relationships necessary to determine how changes in inflows to the reservoir or reservoir releases will affect employment and deliveries. 

Shared vision models often become an integral part of the DPS process because such models allow planners to evaluate a larger number of variables and more complex relationships than would otherwise be possible. Shared vision models also allow planners to incorporate important information and data such as long streamflow sequences, hydrologic and hydraulic concerns, economic impacts, biological impacts and other concerns.  

Shared vision models are termed “shared vision” because the model is constructed in a process in which stakeholders and decision makers work cooperatively to include factors and elements of interest to them.  Shared vision models should be used in every important water resources evaluation where there is a gap between what stakeholders and decision makers need to know and what they are capable of learning from specialized models and databases that address parts of the decision domain.