Advancing Adaptation Science in the Mountain West

Irrigation canal on Grand Valley

WWA has a long history of conducting innovative research to advance our understanding of how communities and agencies adapt in the Mountain West. One recent project focused on investigating the factors and events that drive communities to act in response to natural hazards in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. The study, which included a survey and six case studies, found that action within a community was most often driven by a combination of enabling factors, such as the perception of risk, planning requirements, and funding availability (Dilling et al. 2017). 

In an analysis of urban drought policies in the US, WWA’s Lisa Dilling, Andrea Ray, Bill Travis, and others identified responses to drought and how those responses were perceived. Results showed that drought responses are often seen as successful at reducing water demand, but can also reduce flexibility in the water system to respond to future droughts (Dilling et al. 2018). In another study, WWA researchers conducted case studies of five Western Slope water providers to better understand drought information use in mountainous, snowpack-dominated locations. They found that communities of practice are critical for the adoption and use of new information by water managers in these systems, and that larger, well-respected systems are often early adopters of new information and can most effectively encourage its use (Page and Dilling 2019). In addition, Smith et al. (2019) investigated new pathways for how to use Multiobjective Evolutionary Algorithms (MOEAs) to help water managers better consider tradeoffs in decision making.

Projects Include


Page, R. and L. Dilling (2020). How experiences of climate extremes motivate adaptation among water managers. Climatic Changedoi: 10.1007/s10584-020-02712-7, Published April 27.

Grecni, Z., L. Shore, and B. Duncan (2019). Learning from Success in Climate-Informed Decision-Making: Case Studies across Three U.S. Regions. Honolulu, Hawaii: East-West Center.

Page, R. and L. Dilling (2019). The Critical Role of Communities of Practice and Peer Learning in Scaling Hydroclimatic Information Adoption. Weather, Climate, and Society, 11, 851-862, doi: 10.1175/WCAS-D-18-0130.1, September 24.

Smith, R., J. Kasprzyk, and L. Dilling (2019). Testing the potential of Multiobjective Evolutionary Algorithms (MOEAs) with Colorado water managers.Environmental Modelling & Software, Vol. 117, 149-163, doi: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2019.03.011.

Smith, R., J. Kasprzyk, and L. Dilling (2017). Participatory Framework for Assessment and Improvement of Tools (ParFAIT): Increasing the impact and relevance of water management decision support research.Environmental Modelling & Software, 95, 432-446, doi: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2017.05.004.