Session 7.1 Why don’t Community Water System managers use weather and climate forecasts?

Thursday, 23 June 2005: 8:00 AM
North & Center Ballroom (Hilton DeSoto)
B. Yarnal, Penn State Univ., University Park, PA; and R. O'Connor, K. Dow, G. Carbone, and C. L. Jocoy

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Most experts agree that weather and climate forecasts should have an important role in the management of many natural resources. Yet, most natural resource managers make minimal use of these forecasts for managing risk and reducing the vulnerability of their systems to adverse weather and climate. In our research, we study the perceptions of Community Water System (CWS) managers in South Carolina and the Susquehanna River Basin of Pennsylvania to explore why they do or do not use weather and climate forecasts. We base our findings on the results of two mail surveys and a set of interviews. From a quantitative analysis of the mail survey, we find that the strongest determinant of forecast use is risk perception: CWS managers who expect to face problems from weather or climate events in the next decade are much more likely to use forecasts than are CWS managers who expect few problems. Their expectations of future problems are closely linked with past experience: managers who have had problems with specific types of weather or climate events (e.g., flood or drought emergencies) in the last 5 years are likely to expect to experience problems in the next decade. Feeling at-risk stimulates a decision to use weather and climate forecasts. Nevertheless, from the qualitative results of follow-up interviews we find that even those CWS managers who feel at-risk are unlikely to use forecasts unless the weather and climate information specifically relates to the financial, regulatory, and management issues of their profession. We conclude that agencies seeking to help natural resource institutions manage the risks of weather and climate need to address the complexities of the organizational operations of those institutions. The most severe vulnerabilities of the institutions may not be to resource scarcity or natural disaster, but to their inability to cope with resource scarcity or natural disaster simultaneously with other societal pressures and expectations.
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