Many Mediterranean countries have experienced water shortages during the last 20 years and future climate change projections foresee further pressure on water resources. This will have significant implications for irrigation water management in agricultural systems in the future. Through qualitative and quantitative empirical research methods carried out on a case study on four Mediterranean farming systems located in Oristano, Italy, we sought to understand the relationship between farmers’ perceptions of climate change (i.e., increased temperature and decreased precipitation) and of present and future water availability for agriculture as forecasted by climatic and crop models. We also explored asymmetries between farmers’ perceptions and present and future climate change and water scenarios as well as factors influencing perceptions. Our hypotheses were that farmers’ perceptions are the main drivers of actual water management practices and that sustainable practices can emerge from learning spaces designed from the understanding of the gaps between perceptions and scientific evidences. Results showed that most farmers perceived that climate change is occurring or will occur in their area. They also perceived that there has been an increased temperature trend, but also increased precipitation. Therefore, they are convinced that they have and will have enough irrigation water for agriculture in the near future, while climate change projections foresee an increasing pressure on water resources in the Mediterranean region. Such results suggest the need for (i) irrigation management policies that take into account farmers’ perceptions in order to promote virtuous behaviors and improve irrigation water use efficiency; (ii) new, well-designed learning spaces to improve the understanding on climate change expectations in the near future in order to support effective adaptive responses at the farm and catchment scales.
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