Research Summary

Identifying needs and enhancing learning about climate change adaptation for water professionals at the post-graduate level

Educating Water Planners About Climate Change Adaptation

Environmental Education Research

Education on climate change adaptation is becoming increasingly important for professionals in the field of water planning. As extreme weather events become more frequent and more severe, water professionals must plan around the changing availability of water resources. While water planners receive extensive education in hydrology and water policy, there is often a lack of education on risk management related to climate change. In an effort to provide water planners with the necessary skills to deal with the effects of climate change, the authors of this study implemented an educational workshop on risk management and climate change adaptation.

This study investigated the learning experiences of water professionals during the climate change risk workshop. The researchers implemented the workshop using three participatory learning methods: group discussion, a demonstration of stream flow software (used to forecast the availability of water resources), and interactive exercises completing climate change risk matrices. The workshop was intended to provide participants with knowledge and skills to apply to water planning projects in their home countries.

Approximately 60 post-graduate water professionals took part in the workshop. Participants were from both developed and developing countries around the world. While the workshop was only a one-day experience, this study assessed multiple iterations of the workshop over a three-year period. Data on the participants’ experiences in the workshop was collected via pre- and post-workshop surveys. In the surveys, participants assessed their own knowledge and skills in relation to the learning goals of the workshop and they answered questions pertaining to their opinions on climate change adaptation and water planning.

Overall, participants stated that their knowledge and skill levels significantly increased as a result of the workshop. High levels of satisfaction were reported in terms of the amount of learning that took place during the workshop. As expected, participants from developing countries found the stream flow software most valuable, mainly because they viewed it as a new technology that could help answer difficult questions. In the post-workshop surveys, participants reported that they felt more confident that their respective sectors would be able to adapt to climate change. Additionally, the climate change risk matrix was successful in helping participants identify issues at the intersection of water planning and climate change.

The authors conclude by stating that this workshop and similar workshops need to take into account both the learning needs and the diversity of experiences of participants. They highlight the importance of providing a variety of different materials to teach risk management for climate change.

This study is limited by a relatively small sample size of approximately 60 participants. The authors concede that the beliefs and attitudes presented in this study may not be representative of water professionals across the world. To better direct future coursework for this and similar workshops, the authors recommend longitudinal studies of similar workshops with repeated observations of the same variables over time. They also recommend more intensive studies on the influence of climate change adaptation workshops on participants’ environmental attitudes and behaviors.

The Bottom Line

As climate changes impacts the quality and quantity of the world’s water resources, professional water planners must have the knowledge and skills to manage water-related risks. The authors of this study implemented and evaluated an educational workshop for water planners on risk management and climate change adaptation. Results showed that the workshop was successful in increasing participants’ levels of knowledge and skills around climate change adaptation and that participants ended the workshop feeling more confident that their sectors could adapt to climate change. This study highlights the need for climate change education in the field of water planning and the value of participatory learning activities. The authors conclude by recommending that more detailed studies be conducted on the influence of climate change adaptation workshops on environmental behaviors.