• Deciding to Recharge

      Eden, Susanna; Davis, Donald R.; Department of Hydrology & Water Resources, The University of Arizona (Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 1999-12)
      Public water policy decision making tends to be too complex and dynamic to be described fully by traditional, rational models. Information intended to improve decisions often is rendered ineffective by a failure to understand the process. An alternative, holistic description of how such decisions actually are made is presented here and illustrated with a case study. The role of information in the process is highlighted. Development of a Regional Recharge Plan for Tucson, Arizona is analyzed as the case study. The description of how decisions are made is based on an image of public water policy decision making as 1) a structured, nested network of individuals and groups with connections to their environment through their senses, mediated by their knowledge; and 2) a nonlinear process in which decisions feed back to affect the preferences and intentions of the people involved, the structure of their interactions, and the environment in which they operate. The analytical components of this image are 1) the decision makers, 2) the relevant features of their environment, 3) the structure of their interactions, and 4) the products or outputs of their deliberations. Policy decisions analyzed by these components, in contrast to the traditional analysis, disclose a new set of relationships and suggest a new view of the uses of information. In context of information use, perhaps the most important output of the decision process is a shared interpretation of the policy issue. This interpretation sets the boundaries of the issue and the nature of issue-relevant information. Participants are unlikely to attend to information incompatible with the shared interpretation. Information is effective when used to shape the issue interpretation, fill specific gaps identified as issue-relevant during the process, rationalize choices, and reshape the issue interpretation as the issue environment evolves.