1.4 Learning and flexibility in water governance for preparing for climate change

Monday, 18 July 2011: 11:15 AM
Salon A (Asheville Renaissance)
Shannon McNeeley, NCAR, Boulder, CO; and K. Miller and P. Romero Lankao

It is commonly assumed that wealthier “developed” countries have financial and institutional capacity to withstand shocks and stresses to water resources from a changing future climate. Given the high uncertainties regarding the hydrological impacts of climate warming, flexibility and institutional learning will be needed to adapt to those changes, yet rigidity and inertia may constrain the capacity for anticipatory adaptation strategies. Through a bottom-up, ethnographic analysis of water resource management in the Yampa/White Basins region of northwest Colorado, we investigate how water users and local and regional water management organizations respond to the impacts of climate variability, and how they process information about climate change. The work provides insights on how the water governance arrangements in this setting can create or constrain necessary flexibility to deal with climate change impacts. It also sheds light on the key dynamics of the social-ecological system, especially the relationship between seasonality and livelihoods, along with the institutional processes for incorporating understanding of climate and responding to or anticipating potential climate change-induced water scarcity. We will show how these ongoing dynamics affected responses to a climate-related event (the 2002 drought) and to a climate-related research and outreach process (the Colorado River Water Availability Study) and will discuss implications for learning and flexibility for responding to and anticipating climate change.
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