Developing stakeholder consensus in water resources planning
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Solving water resources challenges is becoming increasingly complex. Single purpose projects are being replaced with multi-benefit solutions that seek to address water supply, water quality, environmental enhancement, recreation/open space, and economic revitalization. Because of this, stakeholder involvement is becoming a standard addition to many water resources planning efforts. Understanding diverse community interests, gaining public support and developing consensus among key stakeholders is becoming critical to the success of water plans and the subsequent implementation of projects called for in those plans. Without public support and stakeholder consensus, many plans and projects are being routinely challenged in the courts and legislation. To gain true consensus requires a level of public input and ownership not typical in water planning. This paper presents some of the techniques used to develop stakeholder consensus, including how to set up a stakeholder process, rules of stakeholder engagement, decision support tools, and facilitation skills required.