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Environment Magazine September/October 2008


May-June 2011

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Bridging the Communication Gap: An Exploration of the Climate Science – Water Management Interface

“The man who has the time, the discrimination, and the sagacity to collect and comprehend the principal facts and the man who must act upon them must draw near to one another and feel that they are engaged in a common enterprise.” (Woodrow Wilson, 1856–1924)

A water tap at a homestead in the Cape Flats, Cape Town, South Africa.

The need for collaboration and information sharing between the knowledge producers—the scientists—and the practitioners who manage human and ecological systems and who are the end users of the knowledge, is just as urgent as it was 100 years ago. The arrival of daunting climate change projections has over the last few decades increased the urgency and importance of improving the communication between scientists and practitioners. The hydrological system is expected to experience some of the most considerable impacts of climate change,1 so the water resource management sector is facing a challenging future. By learning to interpret and work with climate projections, rather than historical data, water resource managers (WRMs) can be better prepared to meet these challenges. There is thus a need to address the gap between WRMs and climate scientists, so that the development of planning tools, management strategy, and general capacity takes potential changes brought by future climatic change into account. This implies that climate science must be made available and comprehensible to WRMs, and that climate scientists and WRMs must collaborate to ensure that relevant information is produced and communicated.

Katinka Wågsæther is currently completing her masters of science by dissertation at UCT. Her research is focusing on investigating the vulnerability and coping range of emerging farmers in the Limpopo region of South Africa. Katinka, who grew up in Norway, came to South Africa in 2006 to do her BSc at UCT, majoring in environmental and geographical science and oceanography in 2008. She then went on to do her honours in Atmospheric Science in 2009, also at UCT.

Gina Ziervogel is an employed lecturer in the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science at the University of Cape Town (UCT). She is associated with the Stockholm Environment Institute Oxford Office and the Climate System Analysis Group, UCT. Dr Ziervogel is Geographer by training (BSc at UCT, Honours at Rhodes University and PhD at University of Oxford). Her current research explores how to support adaptation to climate change in a developing context. Dr Ziervogel's focus has been on vulnerable groups that are faced with a range of stressors on their livelihoods including those to water, health, employment and food security.

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