Adaptively Manage Watersheds

We use science to assess and manage the health of our watersheds.

Our Process

At The Watershed Center, we use an adaptive management process to help reduce uncertainty and manage to the future as we work to improve the health and resilience of watersheds. We chose an adaptive management process because it offers the flexibility necessary to manage complex and changing ecosystems. Using adaptive management, we define our goals, quantitatively track progress toward our goals, and adjust management or monitoring actions iteratively, based on what is learned.

How do we manage to future conditions?

How do we plan for uncertainty associated with climate change and dynamic watershed processes?

Adaptive Management Process

This figure shows each component of the adaptive management process. Based on this process, we developed this Adaptive Management Plan to assess watershed conditions and guide informed actions. On the following pages we describe each step of the process as it relates to our plan using the same colors and numbers as in the figure.

Data Collection

Benthic Macroinvertebrate


Benthic Macro Invertebrate (BMI) data tells us if we have water quality issues.


Percent Sands

Pebble Count data tell us if we have issues with sediment sources, erosion, and/or flow.


Pool Habitat

Pool Habitat data tell us if we have pools that are large and deep enough to provide reliable fish habitat, and serves as an indicators of larger watershed functions.


Vegetation Composition

Vegetation data helps us determine if we are increasing native plant composition year to year.


Floodplain Connectivity

Floodplain inundation helps us understand lateral floodplain connectivity and width of the functional riparian corridor.

Water Quality

Water Quality

Water quality data helps us understand the issues and solutions related to inherent watershed characteristics (mines, diversions).

View watershed reports and request data from The Watershed Center.

Adaptive Management Project


Adaptive Management at Scale

We are collaborating with partners to develop and implement a shared adaptive management framework for assessing watershed health in the St. Vrain Basin. Our goal is to create a framework that will help us make more informed management decisions as a basin and better track broad progress towards basin-wide watershed health goals.