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Journal of the American Water Resources Association


Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.

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In the Wasatch Range Metropolitan Area of Northern Utah, water management decision makers confront multiple forms of uncertainty and risk. Adapting to these uncertainties and risks is critical for maintaining the long‐term sustainability of the region's water supply. This study draws on interview data to assess the major challenges climatic and social changes pose to Utah's water future, as well as potential solutions. The study identifies the water management adaptation decision‐making space shaped by the interacting institutional, social, economic, political, and biophysical processes that enable and constrain sustainable water management. The study finds water managers and other water actors see challenges related to reallocating water, including equitable water transfers and stakeholder cooperation, addressing population growth, and locating additional water supplies, as more problematic than the challenges posed by climate change. Furthermore, there is significant disagreement between water actors over how to best adapt to both climatic and social changes. This study concludes with a discussion of the path dependencies that present challenges to adaptive water management decision making, as well as opportunities for the pursuit of a new water management paradigm based on soft‐path solutions. Such knowledge is useful for understanding the institutional and social adaptations needed for water management to successfully address future uncertainties and risks.


This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Burnham, Morey, Ma, Zhao, Endter‐Wada, Joanna, and Bardsley, Tim, 2016. Water Management Decision Making in the Face of Multiple Forms of Uncertainty and Risk. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 52(6): 1366‐ 1384. DOI: 10.1111/1752‐1688.12459, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.

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