The implications of rural perceptions of water scarcity on differential adaptation behaviour in Rajasthan, India

Water scarcity is one of the most critical issues facing agriculture today. To understand how people manage the risk of water scarcity and growing pressures of increased climate variability, exploring perceptions of risk and how these perceptions feed into response behaviour and willingness to adapt is critical. This paper revisits existing frameworks that conceptualise perceptions of environmental risk and decision-making, and uses empirical evidence from an in-depth study conducted in Rajasthan, India, to emphasise how individual and collective memories, and experience of past extreme events shape current definitions and future expectations of climatic risks. In doing so, we demonstrate the value of recognising the role of local perceptions of water scarcity (and how they vary between and within households) in constructing social vulnerability. This expanded understanding of risk perception is critical for incentivising individual adaptation and strengthening local adaptation pathways.