Stakeholder perceptions of water systems and hydro-climate information in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

In the face of changing environmental and socio-economic drivers, access to, understanding of, and the use of probabilistic climate forecasts and other sources of scientific hydro-climate information are important for informed decision making in the water sector. This paper characterizes and compares local perceptions of the water system and hydro-climate information in the seasonally dry province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a total of 40 participants from 7 water-related groups. Interview results were used to compare mental models of the drivers of water systems and water scarcity mitigation/adaptation options, and relate them to stakeholder information needs, accuracy ratings, and use. Our results suggest that: 1) while there appear to be similar perceptions of the drivers of rainfall and groundwater, there is a gap between groups in the use of forecasts, the awareness of management options, and the level of detailed understanding of how the water system works; 2) there are potential mismatches between the information presented in rainfall forecasts and the stated and/or salient information needs of some stakeholders, specifically in the case of groundwater resources; 3) there appear to be different perceptions of forecasts even among groups that rate the accuracy of such forecasts the same; and 4) there appears to be a relationship between the use of forecasts and certain types of management actions such as long-term planning. Our findings warrant further investigation and confirmation and may contribute to the development of communications that help stakeholders make informed decisions about freshwater management in semi-arid regions.