Document Type


Publication Date

January 1979


Since nearly every water resource managment choice has two or more sides, differences must be resolved in decision making. Equitable resolution requires an understanding of the reasons for the differences. These reasons originate in the implemented plans have physical-environmental, economic, social, cultural, and political impacts at levels ranging from local to national or international in scope. Decisions are made by individuals and groups impacted in all of these dimensions and at all of these levels; the decisions generate additional impacts; and the entire interactive process changes water management practice in ways outside the control of any one decision point or even dicision dimension. The objective of this study is to conceptualize this process in a way that will help in establishing institutional mechanisms for reconciling differences among levels of analysis. The conceptualization used viewed differences in choices being made at the various levels of analysis as associated with perspective differences having value, jurisdiction, action, and temporal elements. The possible combinations of differences within and between these elements were used to identify ten categories of institutional obstacles to efficient water planning (differences in values, conflicts between value and jurisdiction, etc.). The history of water resources planning on the Colorado River basin was then examined to identify 17 specific institutional obstacles, and a computerized policy simulation was applied to levels of analysis in the Uintah basin of Utah to identify three more. These 20 obstacles were shown to be broadly distributed over the ten categories, and the nature of the obstacles defined provides valuable insight into the common characteristics of the major institutional obstacles to water management. The priciples of logic as applicable to rationality in decision making were then used to identify two root causes of levels' conflicts. If alternatives are evaluated from a single perspective, the ostensible causal relationships commonly used lead to estimates of the sum of the consequences from the parts of a water management program being far more than the total consequences of the entire program. Looked at another way, since available water resources planning tools do not properly allocate consequences from interactive processes to individual causal sources, decisions made to acheive a desired impact are not based on reliable information. In fact, different decisions made over time from a single perspective have conflicting impacts. When multiple perspectices are considered, one finds that individual values do not aggregate linearly in forming social values, many actions are not efficient in achieving preferred values, and decision makers are not able to implement their plans as desired. Real world situations combine interacting perspectives and partial contributions. Nine recommendations are made on what to do next in improving water resources planning in an interactive, nonlinear world.