Bridging science and practice: A case study of The Florida Water and Climate Alliance (FloridaWCA)

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014: 11:00 AM
Room C210 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Jessica Bolson, University of Pennsylvania, Miami, FL; and W. Bartels, L. Staal, T. A. Irani, W. D. Graham, and S. Galindo-Gonzalez

In order to create actionable climate science, a holistic understanding of the context within which it could be used is needed. Recent survey work reveals that adoption of climate information among water managers remains limited and suggests that more interactions and/or a more iterative process for communication and information sharing might be needed for improved integration. By directly engaging with information users, scientists may better understand what motivates awareness and action as well as the types of information that might be most relevant to user needs. This study describes a climate learning network in the Southeast US that has been convening scientists and practitioners in an iterative process of knowledge co-production. Initiated in 2009, the Florida Water and Climate Alliance (FloridaWCA) has engaged interested stakeholders from academic institutions, public water supply utilities, local governments, and water management districts in Florida. Partners are interested in understanding and addressing how climate variability/change and sea level rise may impact planning and operations of Florida's public water supply utilities. Workshops focus on increasing the relevance and usability of climate change and variability data and tools to the specific needs of public water supply utilities. This paper describes the interactions and ongoing dialog among representatives of the network's participating institutions, which include the UF Water Institute, the Southeast Climate Consortium (SECC), Florida Climate Institute and the UF IFAS Center for Public Issues Education in partnership with six major public water supply utilities and three water management districts. We use social network analysis to show how the FloridaWCA network has grown and changed over time. We also explore the ways in which expectations and needs have been framed and prioritized as well as the kinds of issues that have dominated discussions. Finally, we discuss challenges and lessons learned that may be applicable to other groups involved in multi-stakeholder process development, suggesting that the careful design of such engagement can strengthen adaptive capacity.