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Water: Recovery Potential

Step 1: Define the Scope

Getting started requires establishing a clear sense of the screening purpose, participants, focus, approach, and desired outputs. If these elements are clearly addressed in the beginning, the screening will be better targeted and efficient with reduced possibility of confusion or conflict later on.

Define the geographic area of interest (state, region, watershed, other). Recovery Potential Screening was first designed for use at statewide scale but it can be used on single watersheds, ecoregions, or regional to national scales as well. Screening can take place on any scale geographic unit that contains multiple smaller units (waters or watersheds) that need to be compared and contrasted.

Define the targeted units whose recovery potential will be assessed and compared. Generally a screening effort focuses on waters or watersheds, but more specificity may be necessary. First, to be comparable at all, the targeted units all need some basic similarities. For example, will you screen all your waters, or specifically your impaired waters? Or, are you targeting a set of watersheds of reasonably similar scale? Next, are there subsets of the unit that you specifically want to compare to one another? For example, do you plan to compare all your streams and all your lakes as two separately screened groups? Or, do you plan to compare sub-groups of watersheds with similar land uses (e.g., urban settings) or impairment types (e.g. pathogens, nutrients)? Furthermore, are there other factors (e.g., public vs private landownership, Environmental Justice areas) that could define a subset of particular interest for screening and comparison? Although subsets of interest can be identified at any time, defining them up front makes a screening assessment easier to design and ensures that the members of a subset can be compared to one another. Some screenings even use a two-stage design, screening larger watersheds statewide and then screening and comparing the subwatersheds within each watershed for more localized purposes.

Identify the purpose for the screening. Most users carry out Recovery Potential Screening to compare waters or watersheds and identify differences in likely level of restoration effort in order to inform their actions or decisions. This is a very general goal, but the purpose(s) for a specific screening can and should be stated in more detail. Often, participants agree on the general purpose stated above but are then able to identify additional, more specific purposes they'd like to pursue individually. This is a very important part of step 1 and should be given all the time it requires. Consider these factors, at a minimum:

  • What statutory program or programs and requirements help define the purpose?
  • What if any performance measures or goals help define the purpose?
  • What types of information are needed?
  • What types of decisions and actions must this information support?
  • What are the relevant time frames?
  • Will data be available to address more specific purposes of specific participants in the screening?

Identify participants and their respective roles. The first part of step one helps to reveal who should be involved in the screening. Consider that the participants will fill three basic roles: designers, assessors, and appliers. The designers should include people that are essential to defining the scope and purpose, but not necessarily the methods. The assessors should be able to compile and analyze the data, develop the outputs, and communicate effectively about them. Key skills for assessors usually include detailed knowledge of the waters and problems being assessed; ability to use geospatial data and spreadsheets; and the ability to communicate scientific information to more general audiences. The appliers are the users of screening assessment results, and thus also often play an important designer role. Although these roles may seem complex, screening assessments are not time consuming and have been completed by single persons with multiple skills. However, broader involvement of others generally increases buy-in and relevance to more program activities.

Identify the type of outputs desired. The scoping stage should also clearly describe the intended products of the screening and how these will exemplify relative recovery potential. For example, do you wish to identify some proportion of the waters with higher recovery potential? Can you quantify the size of the group of waters (e.g., top 50%, 10%, 2%; top 5, top 100 waters) you would want to target? Also, consider formats - is a numerically rank-ordered list desirable? Are percentile-based groups appropriate? Will you want a single interpretive map, or several maps (or rank-ordered lists) showing alternative interpretations? When you have a firm sense of screening purpose, participants, and desired outputs, you are ready to move on to the next stage of design.

Previous: Introduction | Next: Step 2: Design the approach

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