Community-based participatory research to enhance climate resiliency in arid snow-fed river systems: best practices that support local climate adaptation

14:00 Wednesday 29 May

SS029 • OC174

Room S16


Loretta Singletary (United States of America) 1; Kelley Sterle (United States of America) 1

1 - University of Nevada, Reno

In arid snow-fed river systems, where climate change affects snowpack accumulation and snowmelt timing, community-based participatory research that engages scientists and stakeholders can shape research agendas that produce decision-relevant science in support of local climate adaptation. This presentation describes a community-based participatory research project underway in the Truckee-Carson River System in the western United States that assesses climate resiliency through a set of participatory research methods to integrate expertise in hydrology, climatology, and resource economics.

The authors:

  1. describe the participatory research framework developed for this case study;
  2. explain the analytical process to select a group of stakeholders to interact with the interdisciplinary research team and who represent diverse and competing water use;
  3. highlight selected results of a local climate resiliency assessment and research activities to date; and
  4. share successes and challenges useful to establishing best practices to guide replication of this research framework elsewhere.

Featured case study findings illustrate that recent hydroclimate variability has mobilized local climate adaptation that includes collecting data to monitor climate change impacts and examining the performance of institutionalized water management regimes under projected future warming. Stakeholders describe research outcomes as useful to strengthening participatory governance processes necessary to coordinate adaptation across diverse water use interests throughout the river system. Best practices identified through this case study underscore the importance of early engagement to identify a diverse representative group of stakeholders willing to participate in research.

Early engagement helps to characterize salient climate change impacts where researchers then incorporate local knowledge and information needs to prioritize research activities and validate research outcomes. This sets the stage for a transparent and responsive process,which aids in building trust in the research design. Related to this transparency is the need to acknowledge power disparities that may exist among diverse water use communities including marginalized groups with high stakes in sustaining water resources. A thorough analysis of historical and contemporary water conflict at the river system scale should address these considerations and comprises a critical component of the research design.

Future research must test claims that community-based participatory research effectively produces and conveys decision-relevant science to be incorporated into local climate adaptation. Specifically, research is needed to compare and contrast our findings against similar case studies to evolve a set of participatory research best practices that increase local adaptive capacity while supporting a rigorous science research agenda.