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Water Managers’ Perceptions of the Utility of Seasonal Forecasts in Nevada
AdvisorMcAfee, Stephanie A
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Nevada is the driest state in the United States and is subject to recurrent drought even without the influence of climate change. As a result, careful water management is critical in meeting the needs of the three million people who live in Nevada. Seasonal climate forecasts, such as Seasonal Outlooks produced by the Climate Prediction Center that predict average temperature and precipitation for three-month seasons with lead times of two weeks to 12 months. These outlooks could be a valuable resource for water managers in the state, providing the potential to improve streamflow forecasts and the understanding of drought progression. However, it is not known whether water managers in Nevada find these seasonal climate forecasts useful, how they use seasonal climate forecasts, or they even use the forecasts at all. To answer this question, we sent an online survey out to water managers – defined as people who “plan, develop, distribute, and manage the optimum use of water resources” (AWRA, 2022) – to determine their perceptions of seasonal forecasts. Survey results yielded 23 respondents. Three-fourths (74%, n = 17) of respondents were familiar with seasonal forecasts. More than 95% (n = 22) of the respondents indicated that they use seasonal precipitation forecasts, and 61% of respondents use seasonal temperature forecasts. Roughly 40% (n = 9) of water managers indicated that they viewed seasonal temperature forecasts as accurate or very accurate, whereas 30% (n = 7) of respondents considered precipitation outlooks as accurate or very accurate. Water managers considered temperature and precipitation outlooks generally useful, but there were some documented barriers to their use. Spatial and temporal scales are at a mismatch between water managers and seasonal forecasts, which was confirmed by a set of questions gaining water managers’ forecast time horizons and water management decisions. These questions revealed that water managers considered short-term forecasts, monthly being the most prominent, to be the most useful to them. Top management decisions included those dealing with water supply, outreach, and education. Future work should focus on further defining use and accessibility of seasonal forecasts, along with finding climate products that better align with water managers’ spatial and temporal scale needs.