How We Work

Using an integrated approach, the Institute provides a suite of capabilities from large-scale plans and decision-support tools to targeted research and technical reviews. The Institute’s strength is derived from our diverse researchers and their integrated approach to problem definition, alternatives analysis, and decision support outputs. Collaboration across sectors and disciplines allows the Institute to provide a holistic approach to address the most complicated environmental and societal challenges.

Community-Driven, Science-Based Decision Support

In the face of unprecedented environmental challenges, coastal and deltaic communities are tasked with making difficult decisions for their future. The Water Institute uses structured decision making processes to help governmental agencies and communities identify and prioritize areas of value and guide participants toward suites of options in order to address the challenges these areas of value face.

In addition, the Water Institute engages communities in participatory modeling to allow residents to better tailor ideas for coastal restoration and protection into concrete plans for the future. It can sometimes be difficult to incorporate local knowledge into numerical modeling efforts that largely determine which projects move forward and where they are built. The Water Institute team works to bridge this gap through community input that can be directly translated into more quantitative methods like numerical modeling.

The Water Institute Methodology

The Water Institute methodology employs applied science to assist communities to make informed decisions and plan for an uncertain future. Our goal is to fully inform and advise decisionmakers in evaluating alternatives grounded in science, research, and community priorities.
Explore the methodology wheel to learn more.

Read The Water Institute's Scientific Integrity Policy here.


The decision point is outside of our domain—our goal is to fully inform decision makers but not advocate for any one alternative.

Discovery & Engagement

The Water Institute begins by meaningful and deliberate community engagement, identifying problems and objectives, and conducting background and policy research.

Metrics & Evaluation

The Water Institute designates physical, natural, and social metrics to measure success toward the community’s goals.

Tool Development

The Water Institute collects data and creates tools such as predictive numerical modeling and scripts for data analysis to advance knowledge of the problem at hand.

Alternatives Analysis

Leveraging its transdisciplinary approach, the Water Institute utilizes integrated modeling to identify alternative solutions to challenges.


To further support the decision process, the Institute prioritizes all identified solutions, outlining the tradeoffs and consequences of each.

Planning & Policy Development

The Water Institute supports the decision process by further prioritizing projects and conducting research to inform policy development following decisions.

Adaptive Management

The Water Institute supports decision makers as they assess and adapt their plans over time to reduce uncertainty.

Scientific Rigor

Scientific rigor and advancement, stakeholder engagement, and quality assurance/quality control are central to each step of the Water Institute's methodology.


The Water Institute communicates complex scientific topics to stakeholders through plans, tools, maps, and other visualizations of data.