Despite increased understanding of the science of environmental flows, identification and implementation of effective environmental flow policies remains elusive. Perhaps the greatest barrier to implementing flow policies is the framework for water management. An alternative management approach is needed when legal rights for environmental flows do not exist, or are ineffective at protecting ecosystems. The research presented here, conducted in the U.S. state of Arizona, provides an empirical example of engagement to promote social learning as an approach to finding ways to provide water for the environment where legal rights for environmental flows are inadequate. Based on our engagement process we propose that identifying and then building common ground require attention to the process of analyzing qualitative data and the methods for displaying complex information, two aspects not frequently discussed in the social learning or stakeholder engagement literature. The results and methods from this study can help communities develop an engagement process that will find and build common ground, increase stakeholder involvement, and identify innovative solutions to provide water for the environment that reflect the concerns of current water users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)912-928
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Common ground
  • Environmental flow needs
  • Natural areas
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Water management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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