The Ríos del Páramo al Valle project operated from 2012 to 2015, applying a participatory planning process developed by SEI called robust decision support (RDS). The project integrated contributions from academic institutions and Corporaciones Autónomas Regionales (CARs), the regional water governance agencies. The goal was to help create regional and national leaders with long-term capacity to manage and plan the development of watersheds while integrating climate considerations.

Working in close coordination with the technicians and decision-makers from the CARs, the project evaluated and prioritized a viable set of adaptation alternatives that can reduce climate vulnerability, laying a foundation for sustainable development and the conservation of vulnerable ecosystems.

Lessons learned at different levels of the project suggest possibilities for potential improvements. At the management level, it is clear that a focus on young professionals and on working with academic legacy institutions is important for the continuity of the program in the long term. Also, CARs engagement will have to be re-evaluated in future applications to ensure stronger commitments to participate by devoting personnel’s time to the project.

At the technical level, although the end product of a model building exercise is comparable to having a laboratory for watershed analysis, it is important that the process is streamlined to reduce time spent and avoid frustration. The consolidation of a community of practice may help automate the process. The lack of data, including socio-economic information, continues to hinder trust in modelling tools; this can be overcome by further characterizing uncertainties associated with data. Finally, the presentation of results to different audiences needs to be further refined to reach larger audiences.

Regarding governance, key recommendations relate to clarifying the linkages between watershed planning and current mandated planning instruments, and to including climate consideration in these instruments. The Colombian water governance system, decentralized to the CARs, creates opportunities for regional management and challenges for integration at the national level, and requires a strengthening of learning exchange between regional and national experiences.