A System dynamics model to facilitate public understanding of water management options in Las Vegas, Nevada

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Water managers increasingly are faced with the challenge of building public or stakeholder support for resource management strategies. Building support requires raising stakeholder awareness of resource problems and understanding about the consequences of different policy options. One approach that can help managers communicate with stakeholders is system dynamics modeling. Used interactively in a public forum, a system dynamics model can be used to explain the resource system and illustrate the effects of strategies proposed by managers or suggested by forum participants. This article illustrates the process of building a strategic-level system dynamics model using the case of water management in Las Vegas, Nevada. The purpose of the model was to increase public understanding of the value of water conservation in Las Vegas. The effects of policies on water supply and demand in the system are not straightforward because of the structure of the system. Multiple feedback relationships lead to the somewhat counterintuitive result that reducing residential outdoor water use has a much greater effect on water demand than reducing indoor water use by the same amount. The model output shows this effect clearly. This paper describes the use of the model in research workshops and discusses the potential of this kind of interactive model to stimulate stakeholder interest in the structure of the system, engage participant interest more deeply, and build stakeholder understanding of the basis for management decisions.


Civic and Community Engagement | Environmental Sciences | Water Resource Management