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Prototyping structured decision making for water resource management in the San Francisco Bay-Delta

May 2, 2024

A structured decision making (SDM) approach can help evaluate tradeoffs between conservation and human-benefit objectives by fostering communication and knowledge transfer among stakeholders, decision makers, and the public. However, the process is iterative and completing the full process may take years. It can be difficult to initiate an SDM effort when problems seem insurmountable. Occasionally, SDM may not even be the best or correct approach for addressing the conservation problem at hand. We describe the implementation of an SDM process to help inform difficult decisions related to competing objectives. We convened a diverse stakeholder group from the largest estuary in the western United States; the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Bay-Delta). The stakeholder group consisted of representatives from local, state, and federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and recreational fishers. The stakeholder group agreed on a problem statement and identified four priority objectives related to Chinook salmon, delta smelt, water availability and reliability, and agricultural water use. Furthermore, they proposed 14 candidate management actions to achieve their objectives. The group then used existing quantitative models and data to evaluate trade-offs in proposed management actions to identify areas of agreement of proposed candidate actions. The clear communication of the problem statement and objectives among the stakeholder group, along with evaluation of tradeoffs and uncertainty via decision-support models suggest that a full SDM approach may work in the Bay-Delta. We further communicate lessons learned during our implementation of SDM to help guide future SDM efforts in the region and elsewhere.

Publication Year 2024
Title Prototyping structured decision making for water resource management in the San Francisco Bay-Delta
DOI 10.1016/j.envsci.2024.103775
Authors James Peterson, Erin McCreless, Adam Duarte, Patti Wohner, Scott Hamilton, Josue Medellín-Azuara, Alvar Escriva-Boue
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Science and Policy
Index ID 70254788
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle