SMP Nuts and Bolts

Assess Conditions and Identify Risks

Delineate Planning Units

The stakeholder group should use the purpose and scope of their project, as well as any specific questions of interest, to inform and set the geographic scale for their assessment. This scale should include any geographic breaks (e.g., sections, river reaches, or segments) comprising what are known as planning units. Identifying planning units is important to provide the basis for organizing assessment results and reporting back to stakeholders.

Planning units may be drawn at the watershed scale (e.g., sub-basins within a larger watershed), the reach scale (e.g., segments of the stream or river separated by breaks in geomorphology, topography, or infrastructure), or the channel scale (e.g., specific points along the stream channel). Bounds should generally correspond to changes in hydrological behavior, geomorphic characteristics, dominant land use and land cover types, locations of important water management infrastructure (i.e., diversion points, reservoirs, etc.), or jurisdictional limits (e.g., county, city). Organizing planning efforts by sub-basin can be beneficial to stakeholder outreach or data collection but should be thoughtful as adding simultaneous work in multiple basins can be a lot to manage. SMPs should consider the utility of historic planning units or project areas previously identified by basin roundtables in Basin Implementation Planning.


  1. Page 12 of Integrated Water Planning in the Colorado River Basin provides an overview of methods, data layers, and information that can aid in setting planning units.
  2. SMP leads from the Rio Grande, Upper Arkansas, and Yampa River through Steamboat discuss the pros, cons, and consequences of varying approaches selecting a geographic scope in this September 2020 peer learning workshop.


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