Programme OS5k Local water governance
Local Institutions and Adaptation to Climate-Induced Water Problems
Author(s): Harry Diaz
Director, Canadian Plains Research Center
University of Regina, Regina,
SK, S4S 0A2, Canada.
Phone: 306 585 4758; Fax: 306 585 48E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keyword(s): water governance, institutions, adapative capacity,
vulnerability, adaptstion, rural communities, cl;imate change
Session: OS5k Local water governance
spite of the growing consensus regarding global warming and its impact upon water resources, there is still a limited
understanding of the adaptive process of human communities to climate stressors. In natural systems, especially
unmanaged systems, adaptation is always autonomous and reactive. Planned social adaptation, however, is
qualitatively different to the extent that it involves a community’s decision-making process oriented to modifying
behavior and practices; as well as external programs in order to make this process more efficient. Thus, the
existence of a regional adaptive capacity – the ability and predisposition to use and develop local and regional
resources in the pursuit of adaptation—is fundamental for the sustainability of communities in the climate change. The
IPCC has defined a set of determinants of adaptive capacity, which includes the existence of proper institutional
The objective of the presentation is to discuss the roles that institutions play in fostering the adaptive
capacity of a set of rural communities in the semi-arid regions of Canada and Chile. The institutions considered in the
analysis involve both formal and informal institutions, at the community and regional governance levels. The paper
deals mainly with the water governance theme of the conference and complements the presentation of Corkal and
Hurbert, with their emphasis on governance institutions.
The data that supports the arguments is derived from a
comparative study of institutional adaptive capacity in two river basins, the South Saskatchewan River Basin in
western Canada and the Elqui River Basin of north-central Chile. The study is based on a vulnerability approach that
seeks, first, to assess the current and past vulnerability of the rural communities and the role played by governance in
reducing or increasing this vulnerability; second, to assess future climate conditions for the communities’ area; and
third, to evaluate how present and past vulnerabilities of the system will be affected by future climate conditions. The
assessment of the current and past vulnerabilities of the communities, which is the central topic of the presentation,
was carried out using an ethnographic approach, which includes the analysis of archival and secondary data, the use
of key informants, in-depth interviews with community members, and focus groups on specific community issues.
The results of the assessment indicate the existence of a relatively strong community adaptive capacity to
climate variability and extreme climate events in both countries. This capacity rests upon local water conservation
programs, household and farm water management techniques, social capital, and diversification of farm production
and income sources. This adaptive capacity, however, is limited by the existence of other stressors, which include
governance rules and programs.
The paper’s conclusions emphasize the need to increase the attention to the
multi-dimensional and differential nature of community vulnerability and the institutional settings that contextualize the
community exposure and adaptive capacity.