This paper suggests that applications of watershed management planning would benefit from a theoretical consideration of the policymaking process. A conceptual schema from the field of risk analysis proposes that policymaking be conceived of as a combination of two types of activities: analysis and deliberation. We argue that these concepts are relevant to watershed management planning and we illustrate how a process successfully might integrate both kinds of activities into an iterative, participatory process that is informed competently with relevant knowledge and that promotes learning.
Composing and implementing comprehensive management plans for coastal and inland watersheds recently moved to the top of the environmental policy agenda in the United States (Browner, 1994; Perciasepe, 1996). This effort has been labeled an ecosystem management approach (Beatley, Brower, & Schwab, 1994, pp. 129--147; National Research Council, 1985),  in which the waters and watershed are seen as a complex system comprising both ecological and human processes. By considering the social-ecological system in entirety, policy initiatives can address the root causes of problems instead of treating only their symptoms. The success of such policymaking depends upon fostering cooperation and collaboration among all interested and affected parties.
There is a need for more conceptual thinking about what makes a good policymaking process (Imperial, Hennessey, & Robadue, 1993). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a number of states have experimented with watershed-based approaches to coastal, riverine, and other environmental policymaking (Great Lakes Program, Chesapeake Bay Program, National Estuary Program). One of the best prescriptions for how to apply an ecosystem management approach to watershed planning is the EPA's Saving Bays and Estuaries: A Primer for Establishing and Managing Estuary Programs (1989), but although the Primer describes how to implement a process it does not explain the important conceptual pieces. Understanding the theory and principles behind these collaborative, adaptive, ecosystem-based planning processes arguably is as important as learning about other applications. Both kinds of knowledge are essential to the participants and planners of these policymaking processes.
Recently the National Research Council published a committee report that sheds a great deal of conceptual clarity on policymaking processes such as those used in watershed-based planning (National Research Council, 1996). It identified two distinct, but necessarily intertwined, aspects of the process-- analysis and deliberation--and it asserted that doing policymaking well means finding the right combination and interplay of analysis and deliberation at each and every step of the policymaking process.
Seeing a policymaking process as a combination of analysis and deliberation is an important advancement, mainly because it corrects shortcomings with the traditional view that policymaking is an uneasy combination of science and politics.  It is incorrect to equate analysis with science and deliberation with politics. Deliberation also is informed by science (usually the social sciences), and analysis can be done by scientists as well as lay people (stream assessment teams, lay monitoring programs, popular epidemiology).
Our purpose in this paper is to illustrate how to conceptualize regional watershed management planning as an analytic-deliberative process. We begin with an overview of the guidelines suggested in the National Research Council report.
Overview of the National Research Council Report
The Understanding Risk report is the most recent member in the family of reports the NRC has published on risk assessment and risk management. There are key similarities between watershed management planning and risk decisionmaking that make the insights of this …