What is the basic Stream Management Plan process?

Stream management planning (SMP) typically follows a standard process from defining the scope of a plan to evaluating, implementing, and adaptively managing the project. This planning process, described in A Framework for Integrated Water Management Planning (IWMP) in the Colorado River Basin developed by Lotic Hydrological for Colorado Mesa University’s Hutchins Water Center, accommodates the unique needs of SMPs on Colorado streams. While the specifics of each planning effort will reflect local considerations, the generic planning phases presented in this model should remain relatively consistent across efforts.


Phase 1: Engage Stakeholders

Before embarking on a plan, entities interested in planning should first identify and speak with the individuals, organizations, and constituencies that have an interest in how a stream is managed. Stakeholders should understand what they stand to gain from a stream management plan, with the plan developed to meet the needs of as many interests as possible. Reaching out to these stakeholders and keeping them engaged is central to every phase of the planning process.

Phase 2: Define Purpose and Scope

This step requires some reflection on the motivation for planning. Reflecting on the catalyst for planning should help stakeholders develop a clear scope and goals to use through subsequent planning steps.

Phase 3: Assess Conditions and Identify Risks

During this phase, stakeholders or researchers collect data and assess information on stream health and, if conducting an IWMP, the needs of water users. Plans should optimize water management for ecological and human uses of water. Plans often have multiple benefits—they shouldn’t put river health at risk to meet consumptive water needs, nor should they increase risk to water users. Through assessments that integrate human and environmental values, communities can characterize the relationship between ecological conditions and the services they receive from streams and rivers.

Phase 4: Select Objectives and Measurable Results

Using the information generated in the previous step, stakeholders can consider the geographic locations of ecological conditions along a stream and how stream needs intersect with local economies and human value systems. Now, stakeholders can identify specific planning objectives that respond to an issue revealed through the assessments.

After building planning objectives around priority issues, stakeholders identify the metrics that will be used to predict the ability of a future action to meet the objective. The most effective planning processes will characterize objectives in terms of the metrics used to assess conditions and risk.

Phase 5: Identify Potential Alternative Actions

In response to a given planning objective, stakeholders will identify a set of candidate alternative actions. Alternative actions should be assessed by their relative feasibility and/or effectiveness.

Phase 6: Evaluate and Prioritize Actions

Stakeholders should assess the potential effectiveness and feasibility of each alternative action. In the end, they should assign relative priority levels for the alternative projects, processes, and management actions considered by the planning effort. Implementation plans should be developed for high-priority actions.

Phase 7: Implement Priority Actions

Before implementation can begin, plans should be revisited, completed, or revised, and funding secured. There may be a need to build institutional capacity to sustain long-term efforts in order to follow through on projects and monitoring. Plan for and fund ongoing monitoring during this step.

Phase 8: Monitor Implementation Outcomes

Assess progress toward or away from planning objectives by repeated monitoring and characterization of changing ecological conditions or the services rivers provide to communities.

Phase 9: Manage Adaptively

Monitoring results may reveal changes in the ecology or services rivers provide to the community. If changes are undesirable, stakeholders may need to (1) consider new or different approaches to addressing priority actions, (2) revisit the evaluation and prioritization step while reflecting on this new information, or (3) reinitiate the planning process.

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