Define Clear Expectations, Decision Making Process and Authority
Whatever the stakeholder structure ends up being, it is important for stakeholders to agree on expectations by adopting operating protocols that define the roles of different groups (key stakeholders versus technical advisors versus the public), the decision-making structure and authority of each, and expectations for communicating about the project. Formalizing this early on allows for trust building and simpler decision making.
Decision making can be by consensus, democratic, or an appropriate combination of the two. Showing up is critical for water user groups to be represented in the plan. If participants are unable to attend key meetings, the group will need to decide on whether and how their input will be received.
While all stakeholder input should be accepted as equally valuable, it is important for stakeholder groups to openly acknowledge the local authorities and power structures that dictate the limits of a plan. Certain proposals should be considered outside the decision-making authority of the group – examples include water takings from agriculture, removing existing storage, or changing water quality classifications of a stream reach as deemed appropriate by the key stakeholders. A discussion of any on-going legal proceedings or water court cases that are relevant and may limit discussion is also worthwhile. Discussing the sorts of projects and actions that are off the table can help dispel suspicion early on.