Civil and Environmental Engineering


Date of this Version



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Civil Engineering, Under the Supervision of Professor John Stansbury. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2011

Copyright 2011 Reed C. Colton


The regulation of non-point pollution sources (e.g. agricultural runoff and stormwater discharges) as mandated by the 1972 Clean Water Act, forced a fundamental paradigm shift from “end of the pipe” pollution control to a watershed management approach. Multiple jurisdictions and often conflicting objectives make it difficult to reach stakeholder consensus and execute watershed management decisions. To facilitate decision making when multiple and/or conflicting objectives exist, Multi-Criteria Decision-Making (MCDM) tools were developed for diverse applications, and potentially could be used to facilitate watershed management.

The overall objective of this thesis was to evaluate MCDM tool use to facilitate community-based management of an urbanizing watershed. The study methodology was to recruit representative stakeholders from the community; identify critical issues/goals, decision criteria, and applicable technologies, considering ecological, human health, social, and economic factors; establish historical and current watershed conditions; determine management alternatives for stakeholder review; evaluate management alternatives by having stakeholders apply MCDM tools; and have stakeholders evaluate the effectiveness of MCDM tool use for watershed management.

Based on the study, four primary conclusions were made. First, MCDM tools can be used effectively for community-based watershed management and could be used effectively for watershed management under differing conditions. MCDM tools can encourage stakeholder input, and facilitate determination of watershed issues/goals, stakeholder education, and decision-making process transparency. Second, stakeholder input/participation is essential for watershed management plans to have broad community support. Third, sustained stakeholder involvement is difficult to obtain and maintain, but is more likely if valued resources are at stake and/or controversial alternatives are considered. Fourth, effective, representative stakeholder participation requires adequate resources to recruit stakeholders, consistent efforts to engage them, and early establishment of clear goals.

Advisor: John Stansbury