This research project is guided by the belief that improving freshwater security requires advances in conceptual knowledge and analytical methods, new scientific insights, and improved understanding of human and institutional responses to uncertain information (e.g. drought forecasts). These advances will provide the basis for (i) better understanding of resilience to drought in dynamic social-ecological systems (SES), (ii) enhancing the value of uncertain information, and (iii) spurring resilient societal responses to drought, within multi-scale governance systems. There are direct linkages from this research to important aspects of societal, political and economic development in the dry Northwest of Costa Rica, and other dry tropical regions. Specifically, our work on monitoring and modeling hydrological systems will fill science and management gaps. Additionally, our work on agriculture, ecosystem services, climate scenarios, weather forecasting and related issues will address other major gaps in science and management for dry regions. Furthermore, our work on water allocation and building water resilience could help shape the path of economic development in the region, and would directly link to policy choices, and future stakeholder decision processes in the region. Societal groups in the study region are clearly fearful of serious seasonal water shortages under climate change, given current level of knowledge regarding water resources. Our research efforts, along with our decision support, communication and outreach efforts, will directly inform and transform those concerns.


The overall objective of the proposed project is to help shape and inform future adaptation choices regarding drought, with an emphasis on building resilience to water scarcity in drought-prone socio-ecological systems. Coined by the stakeholders from the study region, this project has been named “FuturAgua” to represent both the forward thinking nature of the project and to represent its central goal. The project principal investigators developed the research plan in consultation with the stakeholders with the collective goal of contributing to the sustainable management of water resources in the region for the well-being of community members and ecosystems in the years to come. Specifically, we seek to build science and influence choices relevant to water security in the dry Northwest region of Costa Rica. Further, we intend to make the science and decision-related insights relevant for other tropical areas in which drought is a threat and SES are similar in terms of water shortage.


The scientific quality of the proposed research is apparent in the integrated perspectives guiding the research, and the objectives, methods, and the composition of the research teams for the work packages. We have assembled three internationally-recognized groups of researchers, with expertise in climate and weather issues, water resources including important monitoring and modelling of ground water, ecosystem services, modelling and decision support, governance, stakeholder decision processes, psychology, and rural development. We have a lucid and effective set of four work packages: (A) characterization of current conditions, (B) impacts of changing climate and weather on resources, people and other drivers of change; (C) methods for and implementation of decision aids, the development of practical new heuristics, communication, and outreach; (D) project management.


There are clear and abundant benefits from this international collaboration, stemming from the long history of linkages and cooperative efforts among sets of researchers in these teams. We expect it would be impossible for any one national team to assemble the competencies we have among our investigators, which span many disciplines, and which have exceptional interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research experience. The interdisciplinary orientation is apparent in the research questions, work packages, methods and research teams. A transdisciplinary orientation is evident in the strong linkages with civil society groups and management agencies, which helped shape the design of the project in many respects. The UBC team has clear strengths in natural science (weather forecasts, eco-hydrology, ecosystem services); the CMU team has direct expertise in climate change and extreme weather, psychology, decision aiding, expert elicitation, decision processes with stakeholders, modeling, and statistics; the CIRAD team has clear expertise in stakeholder engagement and transdisciplinarity in regional resource management, ecosystem services, governance, regional development, and linking science with civil society in a wide variety of development contexts. The synergies are obvious and clearly marshaled in the work packages to achieve the project objective.


This proposal builds on interaction between researchers, NGOs and water management agencies in the region. We held initial proposal development meetings in Nicoya in May 2012, followed by extensive interviews. Nearly all project PIs and eight representatives from NGOs and agencies met at a planning workshop over several days in December 2012. The purpose was to further develop the proposal and ensure its relevance for both research and civil society interests.