For the more information about water resources in the National Park Service, please visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/water/.


What We Do

Decision making framework flowchart
The NPS framework for planning and decision making.

This graphic captures the new conceptual design for the park planning framework. As with the 2004 Park Planning Framework, the Foundation Document is the still the first step in the planning process with some of the main components in the Foundation Document listed to the right. A new component in the Foundation called "Assessment of Planning Needs" provides a management and planning roadmap unique to the park for navigating through the portfolio of options including those listed below.

The Planning Framework also emphasizes monitoring and revisiting the Assessment of Planning Needs. This process allows for a more flexible and adaptive approach in the context of climate change and the dynamics associated with our evolving understanding of climate futures.

WRD planning staff supports the planning framework by providing essential elements of the planning portfolio. The following planning documents and processes evaluate park resources and help park managers develop strategies to manage those resources in accordance with our laws and policies.

Natural Resource Condition Assessments

A Natural Resource Condition Assessment (NRCA) explores and documents the current conditions of important natural resources in a park. An NRCA is multi-disciplinary, focusing on ecological values. It offers a spatially explicit synthesis of existing scientific data to provide information of importance to park managers.

All levels of planning benefit from a NRCA because it provides up-to-date information on the condition of important natural resources. The NRCA itself does not recommend actions or strategies, nor does it define desired future conditions. Instead, it allows park managers and planners to have concrete, comprehensive, and current information on hand with which to prioritize and strategize more effectively in the protection of park resources.

Learn more about the Natural Resource Condition Assessment program.

Resource Stewardship Strategies

A Resource Stewardship Strategy (RSS) serves as a bridge between the resource conditions assessed in a State of the Parks Report and the target conditions mandated by policy and prioritized by park managers. As part of resource stewardship of national parks, the NPS has begun to develop State of the Park reports to assess the overall status of each park's resources. The purpose of a State of the Park reports is to (1) provide a snapshot of the status and trend in the condition of priority park resources and values; (2) highlight park stewardship activities and accomplishments that maintain or improve the state of the park; and (3) identify key issues and challenges facing and affecting park management.

The RSS identifies and tracks indicators and recommends strategies to achieve and maintain desired conditions of key natural resources and ecosystem functions. Importantly, the RSS is based on science and scholarship. Because State of the Park reports and RSS's are strongly interconnected, work is underway to move these two program areas forward in lockstep. This will require a move from an RSS document to a revised version existing in an Access database. The RSS process will remain the same.

Learn more about the NPS Resource Stewardship Strategy program.

Climate Change Planning

Climate change will influence many aspects of the earth's hydrologic systems, such as precipitation, snow, ice, and permafrost, which in turn affect plant and animal life and process such as fire. Planning techniques, such as scenario planning, are being explored and applied to manage for the uncertainty associated with a changing climate. The understanding of observed climate-related influences on water resources, combined with the "projected" changes in climate futures from the latest modeled climate data, help better inform management planning and actions for future park investments.

The NPS is instructed to "incorporate climate change considerations and response in all levels of NPS planning" as written in the NPS Climate Change Response Strategy (2010). In response, the Water Resources Division added a Climate Change Resource Planner position in 2011.

Water Resources Information and Issues Overview Report

The Water Resources Information and Issues Overview Report, as the name implies, provides water resources information and analyzes major water resource issues within the context of that information. However, it maintains a flexible design that can serve a park's unique water resource needs. For example, a water resource-based park, such as a Wild and Scenic River, may have a basic need to inform stakeholders of the conditions of its water resources and to identify the water resources issues it faces. The report can serve as a "stand alone" document or as a precursor for the GMP or Water Resources Stewardship Report.

Technical Assistance

In addition to national planning initiatives, WRD planning staff provides localized technical assistance directly to parks. This includes support for park Foundations, General Management Plans, and other management plans as well as general support for water planning.

Water Resources Planning Fact Sheet

Last Updated: March 20, 2013