The watersheds in which we live are comprised of a complex set of physical and social systems that interact over a range of spatial and temporal scales. These systems are continually evolving in response to changing climatic patterns, land use practices and the increasing intervention of humans. Thus, intuition and experience alone are insufficient to effectively manage our watersheds; rather, quantitative and integrated modeling systems are required to inform the decision process.
However, developing watershed management models that are both scientifically sound and publicly acceptable is often fraught with difficulty. If such models are developed "behind closed doors", their operation, application and utility can appear obscure to stakeholders. Rather, an open and participatory model development process can help overcome such problems by building familiarity, confidence and acceptance in the models, while allowing a more diverse group of participants to engage in the planning process. The goal is to develop tools that are a tangible manifestation of the common understanding of a wide range of stakeholders, who in turn feel a sense of common, shared ownership and confidence in the resulting models. In turn, this confidence will be conveyed to policy makers and the public contributing to widespread confidence in ensuing management decisions.