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Metrics of Resilience in Water Management Institutions in the Upper Colorado and Delaware River Basins, United States 2022

November 30, 2023

The data in this data release are from an effort focused on understanding social vulnerability to water insecurity, resiliency demonstrated by institutions, and conflict or crisis around water resource management. This data release focuses on definitions and metrics of resilience in water management institutions.

Water resource managers, at various scales, are tasked with making complex and time-sensitive decisions in the face of uncertainty, competing objectives, and difficult tradeoffs. To do this, they must incorporate data, tacit knowledge, cultural and organizational norms, and individual or institutional values in a way that maintains consistent and predictable operations under normal circumstances, while simultaneously demonstrating the flexibility to respond to disturbances or opportunities that are both expected and unexpected (Leveson et al. 2006; Wolfe 2009). These capabilities are collectively referred to as system resilience. A lack of resilience in water institutions can have cascading effects ecologically, socially, and politically, making this system characteristic a common, albeit loosely defined, objective among water managers (Rodina 2019; Lawson et al. 2020). However, in order to gauge when resilience is or is not being achieved, meaningful metrics are required. A nonsystematic, scoping review was conducted to explore themes in the literature related to resilience, water management resilience, institutional resilience, and water management decision-making. A resilience engineering framework known as the “Four Cornerstones of Resilience” emerged from this search as a way of thinking about the capacities required for system resilience (Hollnagel 2011). These capacities are: the ability to anticipate, the ability to monitor, the ability to learn, and the ability to respond. These metrics have been commonly applied to assess resilience across different industries such as transportation, aviation, and health care (for example, see Hollnagel et al. 2006; Lee et al. 2013; Lay et al. 2015). To evaluate their validity in the water resource management sector and look for other potential metrics applicable to these institutions, we surveyed and interviewed water and natural resource managers in the Delaware River Basin and the Upper Colorado River Basin. The survey and interviews were conducted under the approved OMB Information Collection Request #1028-0131 (expiration 9/30/2026), in compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501).

Our participants were sampled purposively across multiple organizational categories (previously defined by Restrepo-Osorio et al. 2022) in order to reach individuals who possessed the necessary professional expertise to answer our questions and offer meaningful insight about resilience and decision-making in water management institutions (Palinkas et al. 2015). These data reflect the personal, career-spanning observations, opinions, and experiences of our participants at the time of collection and are therefore not necessarily generalizable or replicable. Instead, these data provide context and support to the resilience metrics identified from our interviews with water resource managers in the Upper Colorado and Delaware River Basins and lay the groundwork for future validation of these metrics in other locations. In making these data available, our expectation is that future research will leverage this work to ask new questions about how water management institutions can achieve and maintain resilience in a changing world.

This data release contains five (5) related datafiles and their associated metadata. Identifying information has been removed from all data files to protect confidentiality in accordance with the Privacy Act, our agreement with participants, and principles of ethical qualitative research.

SurveyResponses.csv contains data from an online survey describing some of the decisions made within water resource management institutions across various scales of governance (e.g., federal, state, local, private).

Codebook.csv contains the codes and their definitions that were used by researchers to identify metrics of resilience. Codes were identified both deductively (a priori) and inductively and are defined based either on their accepted definition in the literature (a priori) or the definition agreed upon by the coding team (for emergent themes).

ResilienceMetrics.csv contains interview excerpts that were coded using qualitative analysis software. These excerpts describe participant experiences and observations that relate to the four cornerstones of resilience (the ability to anticipate, monitor, learn, and respond), and four additional metrics identified inductively through the interview process.

ResilienceDefinitions.csv contains interview excerpts that were coded using qualitative analysis software describing how participants define resilience for their immediate work unit, their organization, and/or the larger socio-hydrologic system.

Interview_Protocol.pdf contains interview questions and instructions, including a figure used to explain the concept of socio-technical systems to participants in order to prompt broader thinking throughout our conversations. This instrument was also provided to each participant prior to our interview to allow them to prepare their responses.

ResilienceMetricsSummary.csv summarizes coding frequency by Basin and governance sector.

Publication Year 2023
Title Metrics of Resilience in Water Management Institutions in the Upper Colorado and Delaware River Basins, United States 2022
DOI 10.5066/P9LAD3O0
Authors Katrina E Alger, Veronica Y Romero, Dionne K Zoanni, Nicole M Herman-Mercer
Product Type Data Release
Record Source USGS Digital Object Identifier Catalog
USGS Organization Water Resources Mission Area - Headquarters