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Informing agricultural adaptation policy : risk management insights from wine-grape growers in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia Schorb, Natasha Colette

Abstract

This study addresses the need for greater understanding of both the process of autonomous adaptation to climate change and the factors that must be considered in the development of agricultural water policy in the Okanagan Basin of British Columbia. It argues that government adaptation policies pursued in the near term should be developed to complement the strategies adopted, or likely to be adopted, by individuals or groups. Previous research from the Okanagan has identified water scarcity as the stimuli to which adaptation may be required and suggested that irrigation water could be used more efficiently. This research explores the ways in which farmers use water and are likely to respond to future scarcity. To achieve these objectives, this study examines growers’ perceptions of the risk of water scarcity and defines the ways in which growers use water to manage other business risks. It investigates the influence of the political and institutional environment on growers’ perceptions of adaptation trade-offs and their financial capacity to make decisions. The research concludes with an examination of growers’ preferences for policy to complement individual adaptation. The research results suggest that growers do not perceive the need to use water efficiently for its own sake. However, their adoption of deficit irrigation as an adaptation to market risk leads to low water consumption. While levels of regional knowledge, industry experience and income do affect growers’ Willingness and ability to adapt to risks, all of the study participants have the capacity to reduce their exposure to water shortages if they regard it as necessary. Participants’ opposition to water conservation regulations is related to perceptions of inequity and mistrust of government rather than fear of imposed costs. Further research should examine the influence of risk perceptions and government policy on adaptive capacity and water efficiency in other sectors.

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