Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2017MT311B

Improving Climate Information to Enhance the Drought Preparedness of Montana Agricultural Producers

Institute: Montana
Year Established: 2017 Start Date: 2017-03-01 End Date: 2018-06-30
Total Federal Funds: $25,062 Total Non-Federal Funds: $50,125

Principal Investigators: Laurie Yung

Abstract: Growing demand for water resources coupled with climate-driven water scarcity and variability present critical challenges to agriculture and food production. One of the priorities outlined in the State Water Plan (2015) is to increase Montana’s drought preparedness. Extensive resources are being allocated to downscaling climate projections and climate scientists have made important advances in understanding past, current, and future climatic conditions. However, despite expected benefits, climate information is rarely used by agricultural producers and therefore has little impact on drought preparedness (Mase and Prokopy 2014). Thus, there is a critical need for research focused on improving climate information and effectively integrating that information into producer decision-making. To fill this gap, we propose an interdisciplinary research project that transforms existing climate and forecast data through new analyses and more effective science communication to produce prototypes that better meet the needs of agricultural producers in Montana. These prototypes will then be field tested with end-users to examine how producers trade-off different aspects of climate information, such as accuracy, uncertainty, and spatial and temporal scale, to determine usefulness. Research results will inform revision of prototypes so that climate information is relevant to producers’ decision context and more likely to be integrated into decision-making. This research is particularly important because: (1) demands on Montana’s limited water resources are growing and water conservation is more important than ever (State Water Plan 2015), (2) drought and water variability are predicted to worsen in Montana due to climate change, (3) agricultural producers are incredibly vulnerable to changes in water resources, (4) impacts to agricultural production effects producer livelihoods, rural communities, local economies, and food security, and (5) climate information is rapidly improving but is rarely used by producers to adapt to drought or reduce vulnerability (Dilling and Lemos 2011, Mase and Prokopy 2014, Davis et al. 2015, Soares and Dessai 2016).