Identifying climate information needs of water managers in the southeastern United States

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Exhibit Hall B2 (GWCC)
Pamela N. Knox, Univ. of Georgia, Athens, GA

Handout (122.9 kB)

Water managers across the United States use a variety of decision-making tools to assist them in maintaining and operating their water supply systems as well as undertaking strategic planning for the future. However, many of them do not incorporate climate information into their management activities. The Southeast Climate Consortium (SECC), a group of universities across the southeastern United States, successfully developed a website (www.AgroClimate.org) to assist farmers and Extension agents in planning agricultural activities using climate information and crop-specific planning tools. Since water resource management is an important issue in the region, water managers were targeted as another group who could potentially use climate information effectively in their decision-making activities. A survey of water managers and other stakeholders in the southeastern United States was undertaken to identify what kinds and sources of climate information were presently used in water management decisions. Participants were identified using preliminary information provided by federal, state and local agencies and by “snowballing” techniques. In this method a survey participant was asked to provide contact information for other water managers either in their agency or collaborating with them who were using climate information in their planning activities. A standard survey instrument was developed to assure uniform coverage of topics. However, participants were encouraged to elaborate on the areas of climate analysis and forecasting that most affected their activities and decision-making. A total of 55 water managers in the Southeast were surveyed. Results showed that the water managers who used climate information most often were primarily from the larger water management agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, rather than smaller water management districts. This may be due to the different regulatory environments of the small versus large watershed managers as well as the different time and space scales governing their projects. Most of the survey participants indicated they did not have a clear understanding of how to use climate information effectively in their management activities. Many also indicated skepticism about the accuracy of the long-lead climate forecasts over time. Larger water managers in particular said they would like to see more tools such as real-time evaporation estimation as well as forecasts. Based on the results of these surveys, a website, www.SEWater.org, was developed by the SECC to provide links to a diverse array of climate information as well as a source of future tools specifically designed to assist water managers in decision-making tasks which involve climate information.