Assessing the drought resilience of snow-fed river dependent communities in the arid Western United States has taken on critical importance in response to changing climatic conditions. The process of assessing drought resiliency involves understanding the extent to which snow-fed dependent communities can absorb the effects of uncertain and variable water supplies while acknowledging and encouraging their capacity for adaptation. Participatory research approaches are particularly well suited to assess resiliency in this context because they rely upon local water managers’ knowledge and perspectives. The research presented here provides measured insight into local water managers’ perceptions of drought resiliency in the Truckee-Carson River System in northwestern Nevada. These findings are reported in the context of the collaborative modeling research design developed for this case study.

The objectives of this study are:

  1. to define resiliency and present a rationale for a participatory approach to assess drought resiliency in snow-fed arid river basins in the Western United States;
  2. to outline collaborative modeling as a participatory research design developed for the Truckee-Carson River System case study area;
  3. to describe the development and implementation of a resiliency assessment undertaken to implement this research design;
  4. to highlight selected results of the assessment, summarizing interviews with 66 water managers in the case study area;
  5. to discuss the use of assessment findings to inform collaborative modeling toward adaptation strategies; and
  6. to review lessons learned to date from the collaborative modeling case study and note opportunities for further exploration.

According to water managers surveyed, climate change is very important and is mobilizing adaptation strategies that include improvements in communication and coordination with other water managers, monitoring and data collection, and planning. The majority of water managers indicate that future adaptation requires modifying institutionalized water management regimes to allow for temporary water leasing programs, water right stacking on the most productive agricultural lands while fallowing marginal lands, incentivizing water conservation, reducing or eliminating residential landscaping, and recruiting less water-intensive industry to the region.

Singletary, L. and Sterle, K. 2017, Collaborative Modeling to Assess Drought Resiliency of Snow-Fed River Dependent Communities in the Western United States: A Case Study in the Truckee-Carson River System, Water, 9(2), 99

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Associated Programs

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Water for the Seasons

Water for the Seasons (WftS) is a program that partners scientists with community water managers and water right holders in the Truckee-Carson River System (TCRS), to explore new strategies and solutions for dealing with extreme climate events such as droughts and floods.