IntroductionThere have been many sage observations on the nature of planning, “We plan, God laughs.”–Old Yiddish Proverb (Hirsch 2009); “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”–Mike Tyson (1996; Berardino 2012); and “Plans are nothing, but planning is everything.”–Dwight Eisenhower (1950) (quoting Prussian general von Moltke 1871; Dupuy 1984).Water resources planning is an ancient problem, dating back to flood control and water supply activities of the earliest civilizations. The success of most civilizations has rested, in part, on their ability to manage water (China, Indus, Europe, South and Central America) (Mithen 2012). The demise of several civilizations has been traced directly to failed regional water management (Peru, Mesopotamia) (Artzy and Hillel 1988; Ortloff et al. 1985). In the United States, water resource planning has evolved historically with changing economic and political circumstances (White 1969; Shad 1979; Kelley 1989; Lund et al. 2018; Pinter et al. 2019). Quantitative analysis and even economic thinking in water planning date at least to Roman times [Frontinus 97 AD (Frontinus 1973); Leveau 1993] and has been vital to successful water management in modern times, being more formalized by early 19th century French engineers (Ekelund and Hébert 1999; Morgan 1951). The lack of planning or poor planning often are blamed for continued controversies, expense, and inefficiencies in water management (Sheer 2010). The complexity and controversy of water problems should lead water planners and policy makers to seek fundamental principles and approaches for organizing the technical aspects of preparing solutions, even in unavoidably political contexts. This paper attempts to introduce, summarize, and organize a range of planning approaches often seen or advocated for water planning. Even in the common case where plans are not implemented, planning can inform, improve, and help frame longer-term policy and technical discussions of difficult and controversial water problems as they and their political context continue to evolve.The paper begins with a review of rational planning, the fundamental process aspired to by most planning efforts. This is followed by a review of various technical approaches common or commonly discussed for water resources planning. Practical problems for effectively completing planning processes are then reviewed. In light of these practical problems of water management, some realistic and limited objectives are suggested for water resources plans. Finally, analytical and organizational aspects for each planning approach are compared, and conclusions are suggested for contemporary water problems.Rational PlanningRational planning is a systematic procedure for making near-term decisions for problems. Many have written about rational planning for water resource problems (Holmes and Wolman 2001; Yoe and Orth 1996; Orth and Yoe 1996; US WRC 1983; White 1966). Rational planning ideas have been employed in some of history’s most innovative water projects (Morgan 1951). Thoughts on planning for water are closely related to work on urban, regional, landscape, and environmental planning problems (Meyerson and Banfield 1955; Briassoulis 1989) and more general rational or smart decision making (Simon 1947; Hammond et al. 1999). Although substantial differences exist in the methods and approaches suggested across authors, there is an essential procedural similarity. Rational approaches share a largely sequential rational planning thought process for both individual and group decision contexts.All forms of rational planning take some variant of the rough series of steps summarized in Fig. 1. These steps are usually, but not always, sequential; steps often are revisited as a result of technical or stakeholder feedback, new information, or changing events. Nevertheless, the general direction and order of the planning effort remain the same. Steps 4, 5, and 7 have special importance. Statement of objectives, followed by identification of solution alternatives and evaluation of alternatives on stated objectives are the core of rational planning. This reduced set of steps parallels more formal and mathematical definitions of rationality and mathematical optimization (Von Neumann and Morgenstern 1944; Tribus 1969; Hillier and Lieberman 1995).Limitations of rational planning are evident (Banfield 1959; Simon 1947; Braybrooke and Lindblom 1970). It is often difficult or impossible for policy makers and stakeholders to clearly state their objectives in quantifiable ways, particularly for objectives involving reliability and risks. In its idealized form, the identification and comparison of all possible alternatives on all relevant objectives are clearly impossible in practice (such efforts usually serve those seeking to preserve the status quo). Only a limited number of alternatives can ever be identified, much less developed into a form that allows comparison of alternatives (even with computers). In analysis, evaluations contain uncertain assumptions and unavoidable simplifications. Ultimately, any analysis must serve an institutional or political framework that works, however slowly, to make decisions on the best solution.The strengths of rational planning are its relative transparency, logic, and the considerable lack of other technical approaches for making better decisions. Many variations for implementing rational planning have arisen to help respond to specific circumstances. Often, planning’s greatest contribution to problem-solving is the structure and systematic approach it imposes on information-gathering, deliberation, and decision making, especially for groups. Without such a structured approach, the complexity of water resource problems often leads to levels of confusion that contribute to controversy and policy paralysis. For application, both rational planning variations and nonrational alternatives to planning should be compared based on how well they might satisfy policy objectives.Approaches to Water PlanningThis section reviews six major approaches for water planning, most of which are variants of rational planning. Each approach addresses technical aspects of water problems within a decision making context. The political decision making context of a water problem can be more important than its technical aspects for determining the success of a particular planning approach. Indeed, as discussed later, political circumstances often greatly limit the practical potential of any planning effort. These six basic approaches are presented in a rough order of their historical formalization for modern applications: 1.Requirements-based planning,2.Benefit-cost-based planning,3.Multiobjective planning,4.Conflict resolution planning,5.Market-based planning, and6.Muddling through.For each approach to planning, the following aspects are discussed, (1) history, (2) methods, analysis, use of models, (3) data and computational requirements, (4) role of public participation, (5) how it helps decision makers, and (6) circumstances when it seems more likely to succeed or fail.Requirements-Based PlanningSometimes referred to as “project and provide,” requirements-based planning is a traditional approach to formulating engineering problems. First, define functional specifications that the system must satisfy, often with appropriate factors of safety. Then, design (plan), build, and operate the system to meet these requirements (or loads) at the lowest cost or with the greatest reliability for a given budget (Suh 1990). An outstanding characteristic of requirements-based planning for water resources is that it typically assumes given and fixed demands and limits planning to “supply-side” options. This is reasonable when demands are outside the control of the planner or of such great importance that the costs of meeting demands are less than the costs of any water shortages or demand reductions.The history, practicality, and method of requirements-based water resources planning are exemplified by the classical Rippl method (1883) for reservoir sizing. Here, future use of water is estimated from forecasting and is assumed fixed. The size of the supply is then determined by finding the reservoir size or combination of water sources that would always meet this demand with a repeat of the historical streamflow record. The sum of water supplies must always meet or exceed forecast use. This so-called “firm yield” approach to water planning has dominated water planning until recent decades when the costs of providing supply reliability often have grown to exceed the costs of reducing water use and the environmental costs of water supplies have become increasingly valued.Requirements-based planning is very effective and appropriate for many water system components (e.g., pump stations, distribution lines, and local drainage). For these components, performance expectations are relatively fixed and standardized, and more detailed planning analysis might be too expensive relative to potential resulting improvements. However, for large strategic components and overall system planning, requirements-based approaches often result in controversial and overly expensive solutions and can neglect important external costs of water supplies and demand, such as environmental consequences.Benefit-Cost-Based PlanningBenefit-cost analysis attempts to consolidate the many supply, demand, and other impacts of each alternative into monetary benefits and costs. The 1936 federal Flood Control Act neatly summarizes the germ of benefit-cost analysis, that a proposed project should have “benefits to whomsoever they may accrue … in excess of the estimated costs.” Since this time, benefit-cost analysis has expanded steadily beyond flood control to include greater varieties of water uses and impacts (Griffin 1998; Russell et al. 1970; Howe 1971; James and Lee 1971; Jenkins and Lund 2000; US WRC 1983; Boardman et al. 1996). Flood control, navigation, water supply, hydropower, recreation, and even some environmental water uses are routinely included in benefit-cost analyses (Loomis 1987). The limitations of benefit-cost analysis are well known, including monetizing all effects of alternatives, selecting discount rates, incorporating social equity, and representing risk preferences. Nevertheless, its application has helped eliminate unworthy projects, justify worthy ones, and raise the quality of discussion for ambiguous cases. Benefit-cost analysis has strong technical aspects, including a broad and potentially rigorous integrating economic perspective with abilities to incorporate variability, reliability, and uncertainty, usually as averages or probability distributions of economic values.Multiobjective PlanningIn reaction to the narrow economic focus of benefit-cost evaluations, multiobjective approaches to planning attempt to display to decision makers the trade-offs inherent in selecting alternatives where all objectives cannot be measured in the same units (US WRC 1983; Cohon 1977; Cohon and Marks 1975). Such a trade-off display appears in Fig. 2, separating Pareto-optimal alternatives that represent efficient trade-offs from inferior alternatives. Tables are often used to help sort better from inferior alternatives where there are more than two objectives. Some authors attempt to go beyond the development and display of efficient trade-offs to propose rational bases for making decisions with these trade-offs identifying optimal solutions through multidimensional concepts of utility (Keeney and Howard 1976; Haimes and Warren 1974).While the analysis approach of multiobjective planning can eliminate technically “inferior” solutions efficiently, the approach typically lacks a formal way for balancing trade-offs to identify a most desirable alternative from many “Pareto-optimal” solutions (Fig. 2). Thus, in practice, for multiple stakeholder problems, multiobjective planning is limited to informing decision makers or stakeholders on the relevant trade-offs involved in their decisions or to helping identify promising alternatives that satisfy a range of likely objective weights (Brill et al. 1982). Difficulties visualizing or communicating trade-offs among more than a few objectives often hamper the practical value of multiobjective methods. Where the water resource problem involves fundamental political conflicts among objectives, multiobjective analysis cannot resolve those conflicts but can make them clearer and easier to discuss (Kasprzyk et al. 2012).Planning to Resolve ConflictsConflicts among equals bring both awkwardness and opportunities, as in the anonymous saying, “Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Walk beside me and be my friend.” Planning to resolve conflicts differs fundamentally from other planning settings. The objective is to create a process where groups with conflicting objectives can discuss or negotiate a common plan or strategy, often in the context of permitting or permit negotiations. In most conflict settings, planning occurs in a political environment where parties have alternatives to participating in a formal planning process, posing a constant threat to such processes (Madani 2010). Several forms of conflict resolution-based planning have emerged to respond to the common difficulties of planning in many institutional and political situations (Viessman and Smerton 1990; Delli Priscoli 1990). These approaches typically emphasize the need of various parties or stakeholders to communicate, understand, negotiate, and ideally agree as necessary conditions for any solution to be accepted politically (Raiffa 1982). Considerable focus, effort, and time can be required to establish broad confidence and communication in both technical and policy-making processes in developing and implementing solutions.Conflict resolution-based planning typically gages its success based on how well a consensus solution is achieved and may be less concerned with the Pareto-optimal rationality of a solution. Any plan agreed upon by the diverse stakeholders is generally considered a good plan. While consensus-based conflict-resolution processes appear to be useful, they have been far from universally successful, perhaps because such problems are tremendously messy and difficult (Walters 1997). Conflict resolution is often a long process and consensus is often difficult when numerous diverse and competing interests have a history of conflict and distrust within an unstable political context and changes in individual representation. Where decision making authority is highly decentralized, incentives or threats from outsiders are usually required, such as promises of federal or state funding or credible threats of regulatory or court action. Even where formally unsuccessful, such processes can serve an important long-term role in improving communications, information, and other conditions needed to work on solutions in the future.Three broad categories of these still-developing planning approaches are summarized as follows.Adaptive ManagementAdaptive management is an old concept, “It is a bad plan that cannot be changed.” Publilius Syrus, Sententiae (c. 43 BC) (Publilius, n.d.). Adaptive environmental management was first proposed in the late 1970s by a group of ecologists (Holling 1978; Walters and Holling 1990; Walters 1997; Walters and Green 1997; McLain and Lee 1996). The objective was to support ongoing environmental management with consideration of uncertainties and incorporating an ability to change management of a system as more was learned of the system’s behavior and response to management. An original tenet of this school of thought is that computer modeling has a central role in synthesizing knowledge of environmental problems, integrating new knowledge of the problem, and developing updated promising management strategies. In adaptive management, the development of computer models is a collaborative exercise among different disciplines and stakeholders. The intent of modeling is to aid in developing and negotiating management alternatives, with both management and model-represented understanding adapting to new information over long periods of time, and to use modeling to design management experiments. The approach has had mixed success (Walters 1997; Lee 1999; Richards and Rago 1999).Shared Vision PlanningA similar approach is commonly advocated by water resources engineers, often called “shared vision planning” (USACE 2007; Palmer, et al. 2013; Keyes and Palmer 1995; Werrick and Whipple 1994; Reitsma et al. 1996). This approach uses a group of stakeholders and technical experts to develop a computer model to represent a common understanding of the problem and develop, quantitatively compare, and negotiate potential solutions. Shared vision planning makes a greater effort at placing the modeling within a more traditional rational planning process with extensive facilitated public participation, merging aspects of rational planning and multiobjective analysis with aspects of facilitated conflict resolution processes (Imwiko et al. 2007; Sheer et al. 2013). The approach is a modern expression of ideas for planning large complex systems with public transparency and participation (Geddes 1915).“Watershed” Planning“Watershed planning” has been widely advocated by federal, state, and local agencies though with less formal guidance of how it should be done (Kenney 1999; Gelt 1998; Duram and Brown 1999). This concept differs fundamentally from long-standing ideas of relatively centralized planning for water at a watershed scale (White 1969; Goodman 1984). The most common tenets of current usage of “watershed planning” are that all stakeholders in the watershed should be involved in discussions of its management, all aspects of water quality and quantity in the watershed should be considered, and that the parties should have great flexibility in arriving at a consensus solution. The emphasis is on developing consensus-based water plans, involving all major stakeholders and agencies. As with adaptive management and shared vision planning, mutual education among parties and stakeholders is a major aspect of watershed planning, although documentation of understanding is less explicit and quantitatively integrated. Watershed planning seems to be more successful where there is a balance between expectations and resources/funding, effective leadership and management, interpersonal trust, committed participants, and a flexible and informal structure (Leach and Pelkey 2001). A relatively formalized and comprehensive application of watershed planning principles is the Texas water plan, with watershed plans for 16 regions of Texas, supported by an extensive technical and modeling program (TWDB 2002).A common problem with all forms of consensus-based planning for conflict resolution, especially its adaptive management forms, is the need for extended studies, funding, and attention from parties involved. While the exchange of ideas in these processes can produce valuable results, the long time frame often causes many good efforts to lapse due to budgetary variability, management and personnel transitions, and short attention spans at funding, managerial, and political levels.For controversial systems with de-centralized decision authority, conflict resolution approaches are sometimes the only approaches political authorities can support. Any positive results from a conflict resolution process are likely to be welcomed by an agency and political leaders seeking to make an improvement with minimal controversy. Without proper political conditions, consensus-based approaches are often less effective for ecosystem management than traditional agency-led approaches (Layzer 2012).It is sometimes said, (1) If you want to go fast, go alone. (2) If you want to go far, go together. (3) If you want to go nowhere, #2 is your best excuse. Going forward is always messy. Going nowhere is easy, and change requires the right political conditions, which are often slow to develop. Sometimes floods, droughts, lawsuits, or other catalysts are needed to provide a political focus for change (Pinter et al. 2019).Market-Based PlanningMarkets provide an alternative to government planning: “The real question of government versus private enterprise is argued on too philosophical and abstract a basis. Theoretically, planning may be good. But nobody has ever figured out the cause of government stupidity—and until they do (and find the cure), all ideal plans will fall into quicksand.” – Richard Feynman, 1963 letter to his wife Gweneth, written while attending a conference in Communist-era Warsaw in What Do You Care What Other People Think (pp. 90–91, 1988).Markets are a decentralized form of planning, which can accomplish planning objectives very effectively in some circumstances (von Hayek 1945; Alchian 1950). Markets, negotiated contracts, and exchanges have long been important components of water planning, providing flexibility at local scales to adapt to short-term hydrologic, economic, and water demand variability. In recent decades, the use of water and infrastructure markets and negotiated exchanges has received increased interest and application to provide short and long-term flexibility in water planning, allocations, and operations (Lund and Israel 1995). Market-based planning often includes water contracts, markets for spot, dry-year, or permanent water transfers, transferable discharge permits, or privatization of facilities or operations. Water markets can be exclusively among public agencies or districts or involve individual farmers and water users. In addition to facilitating efficient and flexible operations, markets also provide financial incentives to adapt management policies to hydrologic and economic conditions. In California, water markets have provided incentives for local agencies in diverse parts of the state to sponsor conjunctive use and water conservation programs that would not have occurred without the financial incentives of water markets (Pulido-Velázquez et al. 2004).Voluntary agreements as a market framework can extend beyond water allocations to include compensations for other changes in operations that resolve conflicts (Coase 1960). Examples include downstream flood beneficiaries pay to replace any water supplies lost from lower flood season reservoir levels, as occurs with Folsom Reservoir in California, and the purchase of flooding easements on agricultural lands in flood bypasses.There are obvious limits and disadvantages of market-based solutions to public resource problems. The assignment and accounting of rights and real water, third-party and externality effects, and other classical market imperfections all pose problems. Nevertheless, markets are often helpful and efficient components in water and environmental management (Anon 1995; Howe et al. 1986; Eheart and Lyon 1983).“Muddling Through”Sometimes being incrementally opportunistic is all that can be done, “You cannot control the winds… But when the favoring wind comes it is your own fault if you do not set your sails to meet it.” A. B. Kendig (1876). Political and economic circumstances often do not support long-term plans that recommend major changes. When the political situation does not support long-term planning, it is often more effective for planning efforts to seek small short-term improvements in a desirable long-term direction. This approach is sometimes called disjoint incrementalism or “muddling through” (Lindblom 1959, 1979; Braybrooke and Lindblom 1970). Often, plans developed with the intent of following other planning approaches end up merely contributing to “muddling through.” Numerous advantages have been ascribed to incremental actions and alternative evaluations in a pluralistic political environment (Braybrooke and Lindblom 1970), including improved responsiveness to perceived problems, ability to identify important consequences, and diffusion of decision and evaluation responsibilities. In this situation, a series of incremental decisions often can achieve more faster than more ideal formal plans (Connors 2005).Comparison of ApproachesWhile exposition requires making distinctions among major approaches to planning, actual planning often reflects several approaches. Real planning situations often require an artful mix of approaches tailored to achieve practical political, technical, and legal objectives through practical political and technical means. Table 1 is a summary comparison of water planning approaches in terms of the three most fundamental steps of rational planning. Each approach reviewed employs rational planning core ideas in different ways. Requirements-based, benefit-cost, and multiobjective approaches apply rational planning methods most directly for settings with a more centralized and formal decision process. However, where centralized processes are unavailable politically, conflict resolution, market, and muddling through approaches each seek to accomplish similar rational planning objectives through different means.Table 1. Rational aspects of common water planning approachesTable 1. Rational aspects of common water planning approachesPlanning approachPerformance objectivesAlternative identificationPerformance evaluation1. Requirements-basedCost and simple technical performance standardsAlternatives suggested by experts, stakeholders, or technical studiesCost-effectiveness2. Benefit-cost-basedNet economic or financial benefits for owner, region, or nationAlternatives suggested by experts, stakeholders, or technical studiesBenefit-cost analysis, perhaps including uncertainty & variability3. MultiobjectiveQuantifiable objectives specified by decision makers or stakeholdersAlternatives suggested by experts, stakeholders, or technical studiesReduce alternatives to the Pareto-optimal set4a. Conflict resolution: Adaptive managementMostly quantifiable objectives specified by decision makers or stakeholdersAlternatives suggested by experts, stakeholders, or technical studiesEmpirical and model evaluations, with committee decisions and long-term efforts to adapt, monitor, and narrow uncertainties4b. Conflict resolution: Shared visionMostly quantifiable objectives specified by stakeholdersAlternatives suggested by stakeholders and sometimes expertsModel evaluations and comparisons of alternatives with negotiated selections4c. Conflict resolution: “Watershed Planning”Objectives stated by decision makers or stakeholdersAlternatives suggested by stakeholders and sometimes by expertsLittle or no formal evaluation5. Market-basedEach party has its own objective(s), not necessarily revealedAlternatives identified by parties to the market individuallyEach party evaluates alternatives individually and privately; unsuitable alternatives rejected in market6. Muddling throughOnly limited objectives and expectationsOnly easily implemented alternatives consideredOnly simple and expedient evaluation of alternativesPractical Problems“Planning is an unnatural process; it is much more fun to do something. The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression.” – Sir John Harvey-Jones (1992). The problems of planning are not restricted to water resource systems but are common for urban and other infrastructure systems (Wildavsky 1973) as well as other problems, even robot control systems (Agre and Chapman 1990). The practical problems of planning often govern which approaches can or should be taken for a particular situation. Some major practical problems are discussed in the following sections.Conflicting Water Uses and ObjectivesConflict among uses and users of water is common in water planning. Various agricultural and urban water supply, environmental uses, flood control, hydropower, recreation, and other uses all compete in economic, legal, and political forums over the management of water at local, regional, state, national, and international levels. Even within each common water use, individual users or user groups often disagree on allocations of water, financial costs, and environmental impacts. Table 2 compares how each planning approach addresses conflicts over water use objectives. Where conflicts are least intense, requirements-based, benefit-cost, and multiobjective approaches are suitable, as they allow for a very direct and technical analysis of more focused problems. With greater levels of conflict, conflict resolution, market, and incremental approaches are more likely to be successful.Table 2. Planning approaches and conflict, authority, and integrationTable 2. Planning approaches and conflict, authority, and integrationPlanning approachConflicting uses, users, and objectivesLimited authority to implement plansIntegrating local, regional, & state plans1. Requirements-basedRequirements must be established firstRequires consensus on “requirements”Requires larger framework2. Benefit-cost-basedEconomic valuation mediates conflictsRequires agreement on economic evaluationExplicit in economic analysis3. MultiobjectiveConflicts presented as trade-offsAuthority absent to select the final planDifficult, negotiated4. Conflict resolutionNegotiation is the planning processNegotiation among limited authoritiesDifficult, negotiated5. Market-basedMarket mediates conflictsMarket forces overcome limited authoritiesImplicit with market prices, relatively easy6. Muddling throughConflicts avoided whenever possibleOnly plan within limited authoritiesUsually not attempted explicitlyLimited Authority to Implement OptionsRegional water planners can rarely affect directly the vast majority of water management decisions because most water management decisions are made locally. The effectiveness of regional water plans is greater if integrated with local water management efforts and activities. In the past, state and national governments often intervened in water problems to facilitate regional solutions. In recent times, state and federal ability and willingness to fund regional options are now greatly reduced, particularly in the face of controversy. Each planning approach’s treatment of limited authority is summarized in Table 2.The need for centralized authority in water management has long been debated and is central to political theories of water management. Wittfogel (1957) argued that the historical origin of centralized government and political authority arose from the need for a central authority to develop and manage irrigation and flood control in early Mesopotamia (so-called “hydraulic civilizations”). More recent studies also point to the importance of centralized planning authority for water management (Kelley 1989; Worster 1985). However, others point to sometimes greater effectiveness and efficiency in highly decentralized water management systems, with studies of Puget Sound (Bish 1982) and Southern California groundwater management (Blomquist 1992). Decentralized management can better employ local knowledge, maintain local accountability and performance objectives, widen the range of options considered, and ensure widespread review and comment on intermediate and final policy and planning products. Effective decentralized management requires informal or formal coordinating mechanisms, such as coordinating committees, agreements and contracts, a regional agency of local agency members, regulations, markets, or the courts. A regional water plan with decentralized water management is likely to be more educational and define a framework or direction for common activity, and less likely to define a detailed plan of action.Integrating Local, Regional, State, and National Plans and PoliciesMost water management decisions, expertise, and resources are local. For every state, federal, or regional water planner, there are dozens of local water utility planners. And for each local water planner, there are thousands of agricultural, residential, commercial, and industrial water users, each making long and short-term water management decisions. Integrating these local and user decisions with regional and state water management decisions is both difficult and essential for effective regional management. Some summary thoughts on how each approach pursues this function appear in Table 2.Water planning can rarely be undertaken with the precision, comprehensiveness, or focused authority of an industrial or military enterprise. More commonly, regional water planning must consider policies, plans, and regulations that already exist at local, regional, state, and federal scales. Thus, plans sometimes resemble the “exquisite corpse” of early 20th-century surrealist art circles, as illustrated by the following quote from an early housing study.The process by which a housing program for Chicago was formulated resembled somewhat the parlor game in which each player adds a word to a sentence which is passed around the circle of players: the player acts as if the words that are handed to him express some intention (i.e., as if the sentence that comes to him were planned) and he does his part to sustain the illusion. In playing this game the staff of the Authority was bound by the previous moves. The sentence was already largely formed when it was handed to it; Congress had written the first words, the Public Housing Administration had written the next several, and then the Illinois Legislature, the State Housing Board, the Mayor and City Council, and the CHA Board of Commissioners had each in turn written a few. It was up to the staff to finish the sentence in a way that would seem to be rational, but this may have been an impossibility. Meyerson and Banfield (1955, p. 269).A larger framework is needed to integrate requirements-based plans, establishing compatible requirement specifications; this is difficult, though it is commonly done with water quality standards and diverse (and sometimes conflicting) permit requirements. Benefit-cost analysis provides a consistent economic criterion across all levels of decisions, although decision makers at different levels are unlikely to agree to such a common criterion, as recognized (albeit often futilely) in multiobjective approaches. Conflict resolution approaches provide a forum where conflicts among different decision makers and decision scales can be worked out by motivated participants. Whereas market and muddling-through approaches provide means to plan where explicit comprehensive collaboration is difficult or impossible.Data, Time, and Resources for AnalysisMost analyses for planning are limited by the quantity and quality of data available, as well as the political circumstances of planning. Moreover, much important data, such as long-term water demands, environmental regulations, and climate change, become reliable only after their quantities are no longer relevant for planning. Large amounts of data do not necessarily contain useful information. Poorly or unsystematically collected or estimated data often contain less useful planning information than simple more transparent estimations. Data often must be digested and reconciled to be useful analytically or conceptually, with understood limitations.Data problems are compounded when scientific controversy exists over how empirical data should be assembled or interpreted. This is common with biological problems with significant variability in field data and fundamental questions regarding how particular biological and ecological systems work. The lack of data, or useful data, tends to encourage some forms of planning relative to others, as summarized in Table 3. Small amounts of data tend to encourage market, muddling through, and requirements-based planning. Conflict resolution planning is the most flexible regarding data availability. The cost and time required for collection, digestion, and use of data always place technical limits on planning.Table 3. Planning approaches and data, variability, and AassessmentTable 3. Planning approaches and data, variability, and AassessmentPlanning approachData requirementsVariability and uncertaintyAssessing performance on each use objective1. Requirements-basedRelatively smallReliability standardsSimple. Costs and required specifications2. Benefit-cost-basedGreatCan be explicit probabilitiesEconomic estimates often controversial or difficult3. MultiobjectiveModerate to greatDifficult to presentOften difficult4. Conflict resolutionMinimal to greatDifficultDone by relevant stakeholders; may conflict5. Market-basedMinimalImplicit, left to buyers and sellersImplicit. Performed by parties in the market6. Muddling throughModestUsually not attemptedOnly limited attempt madeFew planners complain of having too much time, funding, or expertise. The lack of time is often imposed by statutory limitations or the attention span of governing political bodies and reduces the level of analysis undertaken, with implications for the approach taken to planning. Nevertheless, the time and resources allocated for plan or study completion often extend beyond the likely time of political attention or importance for a subject. Some such planning efforts are undertaken in part to defer controversial decisions to a later time. Plans likely have difficulty gaining attention from political leadership can still have long-term educational value for staff and stakeholders.Variability and UncertaintyMany aspects of real water problems are highly uncertain or variable, particularly over planning time frames. Many fundamental uncertainties exist regarding how water management affects specific environmental resources. Hydrologic uncertainties include “usual” variations between drought and flood, interactions of hydrologic components, and prospects for climate change; water demand uncertainty, from changes in population and wealth, changes in water use efficiency, and changes in weather; and changes in water quality and regulatory demands for water quality all are central to water planning and must be treated carefully in planning analysis (Hirsch 1978; Lund 1991). Unavoidable uncertainties exist for long-term prediction in most of these areas.The formal understanding and analysis of uncertainties involve the use of probabilities. Probabilities are a powerful and rigorous analysis tool for such problems. However, the use and results of studies using probabilities are difficult to explain to decision makers, the public, and even most technical people. Various forms of sometimes extensive nonprobabilistic scenarios or contingency analyses sometimes are viewed as a substitute for probabilistic analysis (Brown et al. 2012; Herman et al. 2020). The treatment of variability and uncertainty for each planning approach is compared in Table 3. Some planning approaches seek to explicitly avoid variability and uncertainty (muddling through), while others (benefit-cost analysis) can rigorously incorporate probabilistic analyses. No approach handles variability and uncertainties without difficulty. All planning and plans should prepare for both anticipated events and surprises.Limited Range of AlternativesIt is possible to develop, refine, and evaluate only a limited number of alternatives. Consider a water system with only 20 discrete nonexclusive water management options, including various water supply and demand actions to be combined into integrated alternatives for evaluation. Each combination of options is a possible alternative. Mathematically, if each option can either be included or excluded from an alternative, there are 220=1,048,576 possible alternatives. Real water management systems have thousands of possible decision options and many more possible alternatives. It is usually impossible to explicitly enumerate and evaluate all possible alternatives.Practically, each new alternative, particularly creative or novel alternatives, requires considerable effort for the development and education of stakeholders. It is often difficult to develop promising alternatives in an atmosphere of controversy and political maneuvering. Some of these alternatives might be identified by optimization models that identify promising combinations of options (Jenkins et al. 2004). Stakeholders and agencies commonly reduce risks to their interests by limiting the range of alternatives to be considered, sometimes to the extent that alternatives are limited to small variations on the status quo.Assessing Performance for each ObjectiveIn planning, we would like to quantitatively evaluate proposed alternatives on each performance objective. Several difficulties commonly arise: (1) Stakeholders often find it difficult to specify their performance objectives, sometimes for political reasons, but also because it is often a difficult intellectual and technical task. (2) Given reasonable verbal statements of performance objectives, it is often difficult to develop quantitative mathematical representations. (3) Fundamental uncertainties commonly exist in knowing how a particular performance objective (such as salmon populations) will be affected by a specific combination of water management decisions.Performance assessment is made more difficult by variability in hydrologic conditions and operations. How well can a particular water use tolerate or benefit from variability in flows? How should various probability distributions of water availability for specific uses be compared? Table 3 summarizes performance assessment problems for each planning approach. Much of the selection of a planning approach should be driven by the types of evaluation results that the political planning process can absorb. Thus, more fragmented planning processes are most likely to absorb market or muddling-through types of analysis. More organized or centralized political planning approaches can employ other approaches.Transparency: Can We Understand and Communicate It All?Understanding amid conflict adds difficulties, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” Upton Sinclair (1934). Regional water systems are complex, so reasonable transparent representations also will be complex. Even among experienced water managers, few individuals have both broad and detailed knowledge of any large regional water system. One career usually cannot encompass complete and up-to-date detailed knowledge of a system and deep thinking about how to improve the system over the long term. No one can understand it all. This problem is compounded by employment transience at technical, managerial, and political levels; in any planning meeting, many people must be “brought up to speed.”With the diverse audiences and objectives of water planning, can we ever make our thinking and analysis understood? Given the real limitations and realistic expectations of planning, a simplified analysis that more clearly communicates water management guidance might more effectively improve a region’s water management than the presentation of sophisticated methods and results (Geoffrion 1976). However, more sophisticated and detailed analyses are likely to be needed to develop and detail a plan. A plan or analysis that cannot be understood is unlikely to attract the confidence or readership needed for implementation. Clear and organized communication is central to plan development and effectiveness.Planning for the Status QuoWe tend to think of planning as actively preparing changes and actions in response to current and expected problems. Alas, planning processes sometimes serve to defer, distract, or contain controversies and perpetuate the status quo (Lach et al. 2005). If those seeking actions can be diverted into a prolonged and elaborate planning or permitting process, attention to a problem can wane (following a flood or drought, for example). Such planning processes can also displace other agencies or interests from sponsoring more substantive planning processes. Such “dynamic inaction” can help protect a controversy-averse sponsoring agency from other potentially competing authorities (at least for a time) while satisfying stakeholders interested in perpetuating current conditions. Planning for the status quo is usually fairly successful when change is difficult and is especially successful if the planning process is prolonged, confusing, and time-consuming.Some Realistic Objectives for Regional Water PlanningWe all have ideas of what a water plan should accomplish. Popularly, water plans lead directly to actions that solve water problems. Alas, this is often not the case. In reality, water plans are steps in long conversations about difficult problems, serving a variety of related and important functions, and only some of which lead directly to resolving water problems. Many plan functions are useful informational steps for long-term water management.EducationWater planning and plans educate the public, political leadership, stakeholders, and water agency professional staff and leadership about water problems and options. Water plans can be a regularly updated practical and authoritative overview of a region’s water problems, with some directions for solutions. Each individual party concerned with a region’s water problems will have a narrower view of the subject and so can rarely attempt the integrated perspective of a regional problem. The public education role of the plan is rarely direct; few people read plans. However, an authoritative water plan document can provide a reasoned, informed, and readable perspective on water problems for diverse water wonks, the media, staff, and “opinion leaders” to improve policy decisions and the accuracy of public perceptions.The political leadership of general and water-related governments is tremendously distracted by many issues and their own political dynamics. Even the best political leaders can devote little time to technical aspects of decisions. Political leaders must rely on advice from others and authoritative accounts of the problem. Water plans can inform decision makers and their advisers on relevant aspects of water problems and provide some assurance to statewide, regional, and local stakeholders and water managers that their problems and alternative solutions have been fairly presented for consideration.New water professionals or leaders often use local, regional, and statewide water plans to orient themselves in the practice and context of their work. For these people, regional and local plans provide a relatively comprehensive view of the context of their activities as well as perspectives on the overall direction of water management activities and examples of accepted planning methods and options.Reference DocumentWater plans and analyses are central reference documents for local, regional, and statewide water management and planning activities and decisions. In one location, a plan provides authoritative estimates of water demands and forecasts (disaggregated by use type); information on storage, conveyance, and water supply availability; an inventory of water distribution systems and their organization; an authoritative inventory of water problems; and a wealth of other information, including where additional information can be found. Plan estimates, data, and discussions have everyday uses for local, regional, statewide, and private water management and user activities. An organized authoritative source of such information provides a common benefit and focus for discussion.Leadership in Water ManagementAlthough most regional water plans are done by entities with very limited financial and jurisdictional powers for water management, such plans can provide significant leadership for a region’s many local water management decisions. The options and objectives considered and the methods used in a plan set an example for other local and regional planning efforts. At regional and statewide scales and for federal agencies, planning practices set precedence and expectations for other levels of government that are more active and have more resources and jurisdiction to implement water management options. This leadership in content and method has great potential to help integrate and improve planning efforts by lower units of government, increasing the number of promising alternatives examined and solidifying their evaluations of alternatives. Such leadership must be responsible. Its leadership rests on neither lagging too far behind the advanced state of practice, nor being so far ahead of advanced practice as to risk being misunderstood or ignored.Planning Fosters Discussion and NegotiationsWhile plans might or might not lead directly to the solution of water problems, any planning process provides long-term opportunities to discuss and negotiate water problems as well as opportunities for public input, feedback, and support. These opportunities can help the long-term development of solutions and understandings of diverse and changing stakeholder and agency concerns, even when plan recommendations are ignored.Specific Recommended Actions and Their ImplementationWe normally think of water plans as recommending particular thought-through actions for improving a region’s water management. However, practically, this is often not the functional case. The specifics of a water plan usually are most relevant at local levels where agencies tend to have more financial resources and independent implementation authority. For higher regional authorities, including state authority, the financial, jurisdictional, and political wherewithal to implement plan specifics often diminishes. Historically, state and federal agencies have dominated water development only for short periods. In California, for example, federal water projects dominated regional water development from the 1940s until 1982, and state projects occurred from 1967 to 1982. This occurred despite federal and state planning studies dating from 1873 (Pisani 1984). Before and since these periods, almost all major water supply projects in California have been instigated, financed, owned, and operated locally or sometimes regionally. Now and for the foreseeable future, regional water plans are likely to be effective only where they help integrate activities across local jurisdictions and users. In this difficult long-term process, planning can be very useful.Following the LawPlanning processes often exist to meet relevant state or federal legislation, such as the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or various state requirements. Such legislation requires various procedures for involving different units of government and the public, specification of objectives, and identification and evaluation of alternatives. Such legislation helps standardize planning across many types of planning problems. For example, NEPA requires that federal agencies develop and consider alternative courses of action and evaluate them in terms of environmental impacts. Implementing regulations for NEPA further specifies how these and other planning activities are to be accomplished. In addition, more specific legislation exists for particular water problems, such as the federal Clean Water Act or Endangered Species Act and their state variants. Any water management or development proposal or project will be expected to comply with relevant legal requirements. These legal requirements often explicitly or implicitly require a planning process.Given the increasingly public nature of planning and the decentralized nature of water management, the educational, leadership, and procedural roles of plans and planning processes can be very significant, even where their short-term impacts are small. Local, regional, and national water problems are usually eternal and changing, with very long-term issues, controversies, and difficult conversations evolving over history. Water plans and planning provide essential opportunities to focus and improve the course and productivity of public and policy conversations on evolving water management problems.In terms of rational decision making, the purpose of a plan is to convince a broad audience of decision makers and the public that: 1.the problem is relatively well considered, including implications of uncertainties,2.a wide range of potentially promising alternatives has been identified with reasonable thoroughness,3.unreasonable alternatives have been reasonably eliminated,4.remaining alternatives have been developed to estimate desirable performance, with trade-offs considered, and5.the final plan was judged the “best” of better-performing alternatives.For long-term water problems, plan contributions to any of these aspects can be valuable.When to Plan HowConsiderable public and professional controversy exist regarding how water planning should be done. Each planning approach presented has been successfully applied in some situations and has failed in others. No planning approach succeeds in all circumstances. In developing regional and statewide plans, it will often be necessary to integrate plans developed from different planning philosophies.For discussion, three broad sets of planning circumstances are used to illustrate the likely suitability of different planning approaches. In the first circumstance, only rapid and inexpensive studies are possible. There may be few resources for the study, the pace of political events may limit the time available for planning, or the problem might not merit much attention. The second case is where planning resources are greater and a single formal decision making process exists to adopt and implement a plan. Planning details for most engineered water facilities traditionally fall into these first two categories and represent most day-to-day engineering planning. The third set of circumstances, multiparty decision making can occur in the midst of considerable controversy and conflict. Table 4 summarizes some ideas on the suitability of each approach for each of these cases.Table 4. Hypothetically good conditions for different planning approachesTable 4. Hypothetically good conditions for different planning approachesPlanning approachOnly rapid and inexpensive studies possibleSingle formal decision making processControversial multiparty decision making1. Requirements-basedEspecially effective for non-controversial and small problemsMay overly limit alternatives and evaluationUsually unsuccessful2. Benefit-cost-basedOnly limited analysis possibleGood, but usually requires interpretationInformative, but politically insufficient3. MultiobjectiveOnly limited analysis possibleGood, but requires interpretation and final judgmentInformative, but politically insufficient4. Conflict resolutionUsually inadequate time or resourcesNot neededPromising, but often politically futile5. Market-basedPotentially good, if properly arrangedSometimes goodPromising, if properly arranged6. Muddling throughOften best for large problemsProbably not good, unless the process breaks downOften only possible approach; success limited and incrementalIn an era when federal and state governments lack the funding and will to impose or persuade formal planning outcomes on stakeholders, conflict resolution, marketing, and muddling through approaches are all that remain for stakeholders wishing to solve complex regional water problems. However, even within this less formalized and more pluralistic setting, requirements-based, benefit-cost-based, and multiobjective planning and techniques can be informative and useful.Fig. 3 attempts to place the planning approaches discussed along two commonly relevant dimensions, the problem’s specificity and the political leadership available to implement a plan. Other dimensions could be used, the world is a complex place, and the placements of each approach are inexact, but the figure serves to illustrate how muddling through, doubtless a common approach to planning in practice, can often result from a collapse of conditions suitable for more formal planning methods. Even in the worst cases, attempts at more formal planning can generate insights, alternatives, coalitions, and information useful for muddling through more effectively if these opportunities are used strategically (Connors 2005).The rational selection of a planning approach should be based on the likely success of alternative approaches in achieving practical objectives for a planning effort. This selection process itself illustrates many practical problems in water resources planning.ConclusionsWater problems are often complex, controversial, and occur over long historical periods, involving protracted and difficult public, private, and policy conversations. Confusion, controversy, expense, and delay can be magnified and prolonged if the approach to planning for these problems is unclear or ineffective. A clearly structured approach to planning for water resources problems is often necessary, or at least valuable.A variety of planning approaches are available for different types and contexts of planning problems. While the general concepts of rational planning reflect fundamentals of rational decision making and are of broad utility, no specific planning approach is suitable for every planning problem and context. Planning problems vary greatly, with each one being arguably unique. A selected planning approach and its implementation should attempt to reflect the current and likely future problem and context and attempt to make the difficult water management conversations of the time more productive.Local and intraagency water plans with well-defined problems and significant political and financial wherewithal are most likely to apply traditional planning notions. Larger-scale regional water plans usually have more tenuous political support and less well-defined problems, usually will require more complex forms of planning, and are less likely to lead directly to implemented solutions. Regional water plans typically serve longer-term educational functions for regional water management. For planning to fulfill most educational, leadership, policy, and project development roles, it must be transparent and comprehensible, rational, and not require unavailable time and financial resources.The selection of an appropriate planning approach or mixture of approaches should reflect the objectives of addressing the particular planning problem in its context and the difficult discussions of the time. Without deeper thinking about planning, planning processes can easily become ineffective themselves and for problem-solving and discredit the sponsoring agencies, disadvantaging future planning efforts.References Agre, P. E., and D. 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