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Early Adoption of Climate Information: Lessons Learned from South Florida Water Resource Management

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  • 1 University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
  • 2 University of Miami, Miami, Florida
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Abstract

Seasonal climate forecasting skill has improved over the past decades, accompanied by expectations that these forecasts, along with other climate information, will be increasingly used by water managers in certain regions of the United States. Most research efforts focus on why adoption does not occur; however, the important question of why adoption does occur has received little attention. Barriers to the use of climate information by this sector frequently identified include risk aversion, institutional constraints, and low forecast reliability. Relatively fewer researchers have focused on the identification and analysis of cases of adoption of climate information in the water management sector. Relying upon the results from observations and semistructured interviews conducted between 2006 and 2010 in South Florida, this research identifies the characteristics that enabled the early adoption of climate information by the South Florida Water Management District, one of the largest water management organizations in the United States. The findings herein are analyzed in relation to existing theories on technology transfer and innovation diffusion. Lessons from this specific case are situated in the context of the broader U.S. water management landscape. The research finds that the existence of in-house climate expertise, innovative agency culture, social networks linking water and climate science researchers, and serendipitous policy windows were critical factors enabling adoption. Additionally, models and information, including a long-range hydrologic model and a national government–issued seasonal climate forecast were readily available and could be incorporated into preexisting and trusted decision-support tools. Implications for climate services in the U.S. water sector are discussed.

Corresponding author address: Jessica Bolson, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149. E-mail: jbolson@ufl.edu

Abstract

Seasonal climate forecasting skill has improved over the past decades, accompanied by expectations that these forecasts, along with other climate information, will be increasingly used by water managers in certain regions of the United States. Most research efforts focus on why adoption does not occur; however, the important question of why adoption does occur has received little attention. Barriers to the use of climate information by this sector frequently identified include risk aversion, institutional constraints, and low forecast reliability. Relatively fewer researchers have focused on the identification and analysis of cases of adoption of climate information in the water management sector. Relying upon the results from observations and semistructured interviews conducted between 2006 and 2010 in South Florida, this research identifies the characteristics that enabled the early adoption of climate information by the South Florida Water Management District, one of the largest water management organizations in the United States. The findings herein are analyzed in relation to existing theories on technology transfer and innovation diffusion. Lessons from this specific case are situated in the context of the broader U.S. water management landscape. The research finds that the existence of in-house climate expertise, innovative agency culture, social networks linking water and climate science researchers, and serendipitous policy windows were critical factors enabling adoption. Additionally, models and information, including a long-range hydrologic model and a national government–issued seasonal climate forecast were readily available and could be incorporated into preexisting and trusted decision-support tools. Implications for climate services in the U.S. water sector are discussed.

Corresponding author address: Jessica Bolson, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149. E-mail: jbolson@ufl.edu
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