SMP Nuts and Bolts

Engage Stakeholders

Gather Community Input

Gathering input from the broader community to supplement key stakeholders’ knowledge is useful at several points. They can be used upfront to determine the goals and scope of the SMP. In later phases, reviewing existing data with water users can be important to understanding their needs and challenges and whether or how the SMP is the best process to address them. Information gathered from the public can also be a useful tool to apply while identifying and prioritizing potential actions.

Common Approaches to Gather Community Input


Though labor intensive, many basins have had good results with individual or small group interviews to inform the goals and scope of their SMP. This process can also result in additional stakeholders coming forth to engage in the process. A best practice is to engage a neutral facilitator to conduct the interviews so that participants feel they can be open and honest during the session.

Use your key stakeholders to conduct outreach

Give key stakeholders the tools to be effective in communicating (e.g., interview questions, training) with their constituencies or peers. Utilize a “train the trainer” approach with key stakeholders, providing them with needed information, fliers, etc. to communicate key messages, outreach educational information and gather pertinent information. Another tactic is to have an Advisory Committee (7-10 people) representing key stakeholders involved in the effort – in charge of collecting input from their communities.


Surveys are an important tool for broader input. Surveys could be submitted anonymously to ensure honest feedback. However, depending on the size of the distribution it can work well to have a neutral facilitator collect the surveys with identifying information but report results cumulatively to the leadership team. This still lets the respondent maintain anonymity but allows for the facilitator to follow up if something is unclear or needs additional exploration.

Be Creative and “Go to the People”

Getting out and in front of people where they are is an effective means of engagement. Farmer’s markets, churches, recreation centers are all community-centered places to get input from people that might not otherwise engage in a SMP effort. This is especially useful when trying to identify broad community concerns or desires.

Open Houses

Public open houses can be another tool to receive input on the goals and scope. It is important to consider the dynamics of the community and its history in engaging in this type of outreach to determine if it’s a good outreach approach. Other considerations include having a neutral facility for the meeting place (e.g., meeting at the local government building may deter some stakeholders). Many SMP leads strayed away from this approach because of cost and the risk of low attendance and found more success in other creative approaches.


  1. Rio Grande Stakeholder Survey provides a template of the types of questions to ask in interviews.
  2. St. Vrain and Left Hand Creek Community Engagement Plan provides an overview of an approach to engage the broader public.
  3. Eagle River Community Meetings Results provide an example of the outcome of a “dot-voting” exercise method which asked for the public to identify which river values/attributes where most important to them. To simplify collecting this input, the stakeholder team developed an “Engagement Kit” that can easily be taken to partner meetings or community events to collect input using dots/stickers or collecting votes via envelopes that are attached to the poster.
  4. The results of Yampa River IWMP survey of agricultural, environmental/recreational and municipal/industrial water stakeholders provides an interactive example of how to collect, analyze and visualize stakeholder input.  
  5. The Big Thompson Watershed Coalition utilized Maptionnaire, a community engagement platform, to collect and display data from their community and stakeholders.


Colorado SMP Library