Use of water decision-support tools for drought management

Lily Fanok, Bray J. Beltrán, Morey Burnham, Chloe B. Wardropper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Climate is changing in ways that may significantly affect the provision of hydrologic ecosystem services in arid or semi-arid regions. To answer this challenge, there has been an effort to increase the adaptive capacity of organizations that manage water and the land-uses water supports. Governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) managing large landscapes in the United States Northern Rockies region have access to a variety of water decision-support tools, such as indicators of precipitation and snowpack, which could increase their adaptive capacity to manage hydrologic ecosystem services under changing conditions. Yet little is known about the use of decision-support tools in this region and how tools could be improved. With the aim of informing future tool development and addressing information-use gaps, we conducted semi-structured interviews with representatives of federal and state agencies and NGOs to 1) identify which tools are being used, 2) describe tool-supported management actions across different types of organizations, and 3) determine “usability” criteria managers consider when adopting a climate tool. Through qualitative analysis, we found multiple types of tools being used, including processes and frameworks, data and models, and geospatial or web-based tools. We also identified several criteria that study participants used to assess whether or not to use a tool within their organization, including tool accuracy, robustness, extendibility, interpretability, capacity, and institutional fit. This study suggests that increased communication between tool developers and end-users, with a focus on tools’ relevance and ability to support management actions, could improve tools and increase the adaptive capacity of users. This research also points to the need for multiple lines of future research including how to improve the fit between organizational goals and water tools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number127531
JournalJournal of Hydrology
StatePublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate change
  • Decision-support tools
  • Drought management
  • Human dimensions of water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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