US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Adam Wilke and Amanda Cravens, Identifying Characteristics of Actionable Science for Drought Planning and Adaptation: Report to the North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center. 11 July 2019. 6 pp.


Changing climate conditions can make water management planning and drought preparedness decisions more complicated than ever before. Federal and State natural resource managers can no longer rely solely on historical trends as a baseline and thus are in need of science that is relevant to their specific needs to inform important planning decisions. Questions remain, however, regarding the most effective and efficient methods for extending scientific knowledge and products into management and decision-making. This project analyzed two unique cases of water management to better understand how science can be translated into resource management actions and decision-making, focusing particularly on how the context of how drought influences ecosystems. In particular, this project sought to understand (1) the characteristics that make science actionable and useful for water resource management and drought preparedness, and (2) the ideal types of scientific knowledge or science products that facilitate the use of science in management and decision making. The first case study focused on beaver mimicry, an emerging nature-based solution that increases the presence of wood and woody debris in rivers and streams to mimic the actions of beavers. This technique has been rapidly adopted by natural resource managers as a way to restore riparian areas, reconnect incised streams with their floodplains, increase groundwater infiltration, and slow surface water flow so that more water is available later in the year during hotter and drier months (Pollock and others 2015). The second case study focused on an established research program, Colorado Dust on Snow, that provides water managers with scientific information explaining how the movement of dust particles from the Colorado Plateau influences hydrology and the timing and intensity of snow melt and water runoff into critical water sources. This program has support from – and is being used by – several water conservation districts in Colorado.