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Experts’ understandings of drinking water risk management in a climate change scenario

Journal article
Authors Åsa Boholm
Madeleine Prutzer
Published in Climate Risk Management
Volume 16
Pages 133-144
ISSN 2212-0963
Publication year 2017
Published at Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI)
Centre for Business in Society
School of Global Studies
Pages 133-144
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.crm.2017.01.00...
https://gup-server.ub.gu.se/v1/asse...
Keywords Drinking water; Climate change; Adaptation; Risk management; Expertise
Subject categories Water Treatment, Social Anthropology

Abstract

The challenges for society presented by climate change are complex and demanding. This paper focuses on one particular resource of utmost necessity and vulnerability to climate change: namely, the provisioning of safe drinking water. From a critical perspective on the role of expertise in risk debates, this paper looks at how Swedish experts understand risk to drinking water in a climate change scenario and how they reason about challenges to risk management and adaptation strategies. The empirical material derives from ten in-depth semi-structured interviews with experts, employed both at government agencies and at universities, and with disciplinary backgrounds in a variety of fields (water engineering, planning, geology and environmental chemistry). The experts understand risk factors affecting both drinking water quality and availability as complex and systemically interrelated. A lack of political saliency of drinking water as a public service is identified as an obstacle to the development of robust adaptation strategies. Another area of concern relates to the geographical, organizational and institutional boundaries (regulatory, political and epistemological) between the plethora of public actors with partly overlapping and sometimes unclear responsibilities for the provisioning of safe drinking water. The study concludes that climate change adaptation regarding drinking water provisioning will require a new integration of the knowledge of systemic risk relations, in combination with more efficient agency collaboration based on a clear demarcation of responsibility between actors.

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