SMP Nuts and Bolts

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Creating a leadership team that has solid relationships with an array of important stakeholders will save time later.

Environmental groups, multi-stakeholder partnerships, water conservancy districts, agricultural conservation districts, and local or county governments have all led SMPs. The appropriate leadership may be an obvious choice or leadership may emerge through stakeholder discussion. In all cases, it is worth openly acknowledging the qualifications that justify the chosen lead organization to the entire stakeholder group so the stakeholder group can understand the choice and support leadership.

Capacity and culture influence leadership success. The bigger the geographic scale of the project, the greater the time commitment. Large-scale projects may require coordinating multiple contractors, significant financial management, and simultaneously overseeing numerous tasks. When selecting leadership, consider whether an organization is ready to take on these responsibilities. If a single organization doesn’t have the capacity to lead, consultants can be used as coordinators or a team of organizations can work together.

The culture in the project area can determine what leadership is a good fit. Be honest about who has existing positive relationships with different stakeholder groups. In some cases, SMPs initiated by environmental organizations have unintentionally left agricultural water users feeling that their interests were not represented and their positive contributions were not counted. Those with legal or regulatory oversight over water should be consulted on leadership structure because they have knowledge of how the river works, and the power to derail the effort.


  1. The St. Vrain and Left Hand Creek utilized a neutral facilitator to conduct interviews with key stakeholders to determine if an SMP was the right path and to recommend project leadership.
  2. The Yampa Basin Roundtable is an example of a team approach where multiple organizations are serving distinct roles (oversight, fiscal agent, coordination, outreach, etc.).
  3. The following pre-planning questions may help you decide what kind of SMP process you are interested in.

Have you talked with the Basin Roundtable and know how this SMP will help with their Basin Implementation Plan goals?


Which stakeholders should be on the SMP leadership team? Can you envision their specific roles?


Have you identified key stakeholders by asking who is/is not interested in this process and why?


Do you have existing (positive) relationships with key stakeholders? If not, who does?


Have you identified an organizational home for the plan and subsequent implementation?


Have you thought about the role of the broader community and whether/how they should be engaged?

Use Existing Collaborative Structures

Engage the Basin Roundtable

Colorado SMP Library