, Volume 78, Issue 1, pp 31-62
Date: 01 Sep 2006

Context Matters: What Shapes Adaptation to Water Stress in the Okanagan?

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Abstract

This paper describes two case studies of demand-side water management in the Okanagan region of southern British Columbia, Canada. The case studies reveal important lessons about how local context shapes the process of adaptation; in these cases, adaptation to rising and changing water demand under a regime of increasingly limited supply in a semi-arid region. Both case studies represent examples of water meter implementation, specifically volume-based pricing in a residential area and as a compliance tool in a mainly farming district. While the initiative was successful in the residential setting, agricultural metering met with stiff resistance. These cases suggest many factors shape the character of the adaptation process, including: interpretation of the signal relative to context, newness of the approach, consumer values, and local and provincial political agendas. Although context has been explored in resource management circles, thus far climate change adaptation research has not adequately discussed the embeddedness of adaptation. In other words, how context matters and what aspects of context, unrelated to climate change, could encourage or thwart the act of adapting. This study is a simple illustration of the potential drivers, barriers and enabling factors that have influenced the adaptation process of water management decisions in the Okanagan.