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This course was developed with support from the National Science Foundation DUE grant number 0736942.


A compilation of performance measures developed by students in the course for the Delaware Basin are available here (opens in new window).


Materials for the full course are available online here.

For access to the river basin management model used in the course, contact Megan Wiley Rivera (410-715-0555 or


Please feel free to poach materials for your own courses in any way you'd like.

We've prepared 2-4 day modules that can be used in other courses.

We also have a library of video clips that focus on specific concepts.

Or see the full list of materials used in the course.

Also see the materials for Rick Palmer's Water Resources Management Course.


If you do use a module or teach the full course, please also use the assessment materials, and send them to us to help continue improving the course.

Please also share the materials you develop here (contact Megan Rivera).


More information about the course is given in this power point. You can also contact Megan Wiley Rivera at 410-715-0555 or

Computer Aided Negotiations of Water Resources Disputes
An Inter-disciplinary Roleplaying Course

logjam Clackamas River by Tony Pulokas
Photo by Tony Pulokas

Solving many of today's and tomorrow's most pressing and challenging problems requires individuals who can utilize scientific knowledge and technological tools, function effectively on interdisciplinary teams, and successfully negotiate disputes with stakeholders representing disparate interests. Appropriate use of science and technology refines thinking, produces better decisions, and fosters broader dissemination of effective problem-solving techniques. In the critical area of water resources there is a need for individuals who can offer their expertise effectively, who possess sufficiently broad knowledge to integrate and communicate ideas from multiple disciplines, and who can learn new information outside of a classroom. They must be able to use knowledge, tools, and skills to negotiate, appreciating that a solution agreeable to all parties is most likely to last.

The course Computer Aided Negotiation of Water Resources Disputes requires its students to undertake all of the above. They tackle a real-world, interdisciplinary water-resources problem, with supporting tools based on the 20-year cumulative experience of a consulting firm specializing in resource negotiations and a host of experts in mediation, science, engineering, and law.

Computer Aided Negotiation of Water Resources Disputes was taught at University of Maryland Baltimore County, UMBC in the Fall of 2008, with students role-playing stakeholders in the Delaware River Basin. The following course materials are available here:

Solution sets are available to faculty only by contacting Megan Wiley Rivera (410-715-0555 or

More about Computer Aided Dispute Resolution:

Serene Lake by Tony Pulokas
Photo by Tony Pulokas

Disputes over water are often bitterly fought. The gun-slingers of the old west have been replaced with armies of high-priced lawyers and well-funded lobbyists, but it is a take-no-prisoners struggle nonetheless. In the rest of the world, water conflicts are even more urgent. Water lies at the heart of several of the world's most intractable regional conflicts.

In many disputes, the objectives are a moving target: parties may not be clear on the specifics of their objectives far beyond "as much water as I can get" or may change their objectives if progress is made toward meeting them in hopes of additional gains. Another impediment to resolving such disputes is a lack of tools to evaluate the impacts of proposed solutions. By laying out the objectives (performance measures) clearly and using an appropriate modeling tool, creative solutions can be found that meet the needs of all parties.

Trakai by Tony Pulokas
Photo by Tony Pulokas

Computer Aided Dispute Resolution (CADRe) is a process for guiding stakeholders to create a mutually beneficial solution to water disputes by addressing the aforementioned challenges. The systemization of computer-aided collaborative processes in this area has been achieved primarily by Daniel Sheer of HydroLogics (Sheer, et al., 1989) and the Shared Vision Planning collaborators (Loucks, 1990; Thiessen and Loucks, 1992; Palmer and Keys, 1993; Keyes and Palmer, 1995; Werick and Whipple, 1994; Palmer, et al., 1999; Cardwell and Lorie, 2006). While both groups continue to use computer-aided collaborative decision-making (e.g., Mudd, 2002; National Research Council, 2006), the value of the approach is now becoming widely recognized. For example, in the report by the National Science and Technology Council Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, A Strategy for Federal Science and Technology to Support U.S. Water Availability and Quality, one of seven recommended strategies to meet U.S. water challenges is the development of collaborative tools and processes. In addition, the Institute for Water Resources has organized two workshops, developed a number of materials, and hosts an on-line community of Collaborative Modeling for Decision Support practitioners.

Students experience the CADRe process first-hand by tackling an actual water resources dispute in the course Computer Aided Negotiation of Water Resources Disputes.

Also see:


Beall, A.M. (2007). Participatory Environmental Modeling and System Dynamics: Integrating Natural Resource Science and Social Concerns. Ph.D. Thesis. Washington State Univ.

Cardwell, H. E. and Lorie, M.A. (2006) Collaborative Modeling for Water Management. Southwest Hydrology, 5(4), 26-27.

Hare, M., R. A. Letcher, et al. (2003). Participatory Modelling in Natural Resources Management: A Comparison of Four Case Studies. Integrated Assessment 4(2): 62-72.

Keys, A.M. and Palmer, R.N. (1995) An assessment of shared vision model effectiveness in water resources planning. Integrated Water Resources Planning for the 21st Century, Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Water Resources Planning and Management Conference. M.F. Dominica, ed. ASCE: Washington, D.C., 532-535.

Loucks, D.P. (1990) Analytical Aids to Conflict Management, in Managing Water-Related Conflicts: The Engineers Role, W.Viessman and T.T. Smerdon, eds., ASCE: NY, 23-37.

Mudd, D. (2002). From Ravensden Rock to Stingray Point, The Rappahannock RiverDraws Attention. Virginia Water Central Newsletter. 20, 1-4.

National Research Council (2006) Review of the Lake-Ontario-St. Lawrence River Studies. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. 148 p.

Palmer, R.N. and Keys, A.M. (1993) Empowering stakeholders through simulation in water resources planning. In Water Management in the '90s, Proceedings of the 20th Annual Water Resources Planning and Management Conference, K. Hon, ed. ASCE: Washington, D.C., 451-454.

Palmer, R.N., Werick, W.J., MacEwan, A., and Woods, A.W. (1999) Modeling Water Resources Opportunities, Challenges and Trade-Offs: The Use of Shared Vision Modeling for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution.

Stephenson, K., L. Shabman, et al. (2007). Computer Aided Dispute Resolution: Proceedings from the CADRe Workshop. Albuquerque, NM, Institute for Water Resources. In Preparing for the 21st Century, Proceedings of the 29th Annual Water Resources Planning and Management Conference. E.M. Wilson, ed. ASCE: Washington, D.C., 1.

Sheer, D.P., Baeck, M.L., and Wright, J.R. (1989) The Computer as Negotiator. J AWWA, 81(2), 68-73.

Thiessen, E.M. and Loucks, D.P. (1992) Computer assisted negotiation of multiobjective water resources conflicts. Water Resources Bulletin, 28(1), 163-177.

Van den Belt, M. 2004. Mediated Modeling: A System Dynamics Approach to Environmental Consensus Building. Washington DC: Island Press.

Vennix, J.A.C. 1996. Group Model Building: Facilitating Team Learning Using System Dynamics. New York. Wiley.

Videira, N. (2005). Stakeholder Participation in Environmental Decision-Making: The Role of Participatory Modeling. Ph.D. Thesis. Lisboa, Universidade Nova de Lisboa.

Werick, W.J. and Whipple, W. (1994) Managing Water for Drought, IWR Report 94-NDS-8, Institute for Water Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alexandria, VA. 210 p.


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