Scenario planning for Colorado River Basin futures

04/14/20 06:46:pm

On April 7 and 8, 2020, Andrea K. Gerlak of the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy and the School of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona (UArizona) helped to host an innovative scenario planning workshop for some stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin. These scenario planning workshops considered for the first time the potential for extreme climate events to occur synchronously with potential major crises in governance, the economy and other "extremes."

Participants, including representatives of all seven Colorado River basin states, Mexico, Tribes, water managers, agriculture and others, built basin-wide storylines around these intersections, discussed cascading climate, ecosystem, social and other impacts, and discussed solutions that could mitigate the effects of these "black swan" events.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the workshop featured an online format, complete with breakout sessions and online polls to facilitate participation. It was the third of a series of three workshops, part of the larger Colorado River Conversations project, focused on developing an interdisciplinary science-based conversation to contribute ideas for future management of the river. During the first two workshops, participants from all corners of the Colorado River Basin wrestled with identifying “nightmare scenarios” and building them into storylines.

Kathy Jacobs, Director of the University of Arizona’s Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions (CCASS) program and Amy McCoy and Season Martin of Martin & McCoy facilitated the workshop. The team of organizers spanned many UArizona departments including Environmental Science, Geography and Development, and School of Natural Resources and the Environment as well as an alum of Arid Lands Resource Sciences.

Participants were grateful for the opportunity to discuss these issues, even in the midst of a pandemic. Many concurred this moment gave more focus to the reality of black swan events like those the scenario planning process had contemplated. There was enthusiasm around finding ways to convene in the future - whether virtually, around a conference room, or on the River!

For more information on the Colorado River scenario planning workshops, visit the Colorado River Conversations webpage.

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