Farmers' Options to Address Water Scarcity in a Changing Climate: Case Studies from two Basins in Mediterranean Chile

Environ Manage. 2016 Dec;58(6):958-971. doi: 10.1007/s00267-016-0759-2. Epub 2016 Sep 24.


Irrigated agriculture in Mediterranean areas faces tremendous challenges because of its exposure to hydroclimatic variability, increasing competition for water from different sectors, and the possibility of a climatic change. In this context, efficient management of water resources emerges as a critical issue. This requires the adoption of technological innovations, investment in infrastructure, adequate institutional arrangements, and informed decision makers. To understand farmers' perceptions and their implementation of climate change adaptation strategies with regards to water management, primary information was captured in the Limarí and Maule river basins in Chile. Farmers identified stressors for agriculture; climate change, droughts, and lack of water appeared as the most relevant stressors compared to others productive, economic, and institutional factors; revealing a rising relevance of climate related factors. While most producers perceived climate changes in recent years (92.9 %), a significant proportion (61.1 %) claim to have experienced drought, whereas only a fraction (31.9 %) have implemented a strategy to deal with this situation. Identified actions were classified in four groups: investments for water accumulation, modernization of irrigation systems, rationalization of water use, and partnership activities. Using a multinomial logit model these strategies were related to socioeconomic and productive characteristics. Results show that gender and farm size are relevant for investments, implementation and improvement of irrigation systems. For all the strategies described, access to weather information was a relevant element. The study provides empirical evidence of a recent increase in the importance assigned to climate factors by producers and adaptation options that can be supported by agricultural policy.

Keywords: Agricultural production; Chile; Drought; Multinomial logit; Stressors; Water scarcity.

MeSH terms

  • Agricultural Irrigation / organization & administration*
  • Chile
  • Climate
  • Climate Change*
  • Droughts
  • Farmers / psychology
  • Humans
  • Perception
  • Rivers*
  • Water Resources / supply & distribution*
  • Water Supply