Advancing Adaptation and Resilience Science

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.

Looking to the future, we are taking an innovative approach to using social science methods, physical climate research, and ongoing engagement with communities, agencies, water managers, and others to advance the science of adaptation and resilience. New projects will strive to understand what resilience means to communities, particularly frontline communities at the forefront of climate impacts and economic transitions. We will also work to build metrics that track resilience on-the-ground, with communities and utilities. Our work will be evaluated on its ability to co-produce actionable knowledge on compound hazards and resilience, its effectiveness in building resilience and adaptive capacity on the ground in the region, and our progress in advancing the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) in our work.

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