Tools for Comprehensive Proactive Planning: Backcasting Long-Term Water Supply Scenarios for a Large Southeastern River
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Approaches to water planning are increasingly collaborative, watershed-scale, and focused on adaptive management. Such approaches are difficult to implement under the conditions of low certainty and control that typify large watersheds over long time horizons. To achieve comprehensive proactive planning, a toolbox of techniques is needed that can help incorporate new information into plans as the appropriate implementation, framing, and context of management shifts. This study investigated backcasting as one such complementary technique to current water planning strategies. Backcasting is a planning technique in which participants reconstruct sequences of events that connect future scenarios to near-term actions. This process helps managers to consider a range of possible system futures, links future scenarios to present actions, and understand the policy changes needed. To test this technique, I designed and facilitated a backcasting workshop using participatory methods modified from those used in a similar, larger process in the European Union. I conducted the workshop once with graduate students and once with policy and management experts in the Cape Fear River basin of North Carolina. The participants used backcasting to articulate several plausible trajectories for water supply in the basin over a 60 year time horizon. Each backcasted trajectory began with a different endpoint scenario for the basin economy and patterns of land use in 2075. Results confirm that backcasting is useful for identifying priority actions and potential obstacles to desirable outcomes, and suggest that it is a good way to reveal decision-makers’ underlying assumptions about system dynamics and the purposes of planning. Backcasting is an important addition to the toolbox of U.S. water planning techniques. Use of this technique has great potential to strengthen collaborative watershed-scale adaptive management of water resources.
cape fear river
CitationPerry, Margaret (2014). Tools for Comprehensive Proactive Planning: Backcasting Long-Term Water Supply Scenarios for a Large Southeastern River. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/8560.
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