Turning water into wine - Exploring approaches for improved water management among five vitivinicultural sustainability programs
Abstract: Wine production has been demonstrated to negatively impact on the environment in a number of ways, threatening the well being of ecosystems and a sustainable future of the industry. With a general need for reducing environmental impacts; optimization of water resources has been identified the most critical environmental aspect in relation to wine production. Yet, several studies point towards inefficient water use within the industry. Vitivinicultural sustainability programs have been created as a response to concerns of negative impacts of the industry, assisting producers to adopt sustainable production practices. However, how these programs work towards adoption of sustainable water management among program members, and how these efforts can be improved for increased water efficiencies remains largely unexplored topics. Based on identified gaps in knowledge, the aims of this research were fourfold: 1) Describe how a selected set of vitivinicultural sustainability programs are working towards improved water management among members; 2) Obtain estimates on member performance in terms of water management and relate this to findings from query 1; 3) Understand program managers’ perceived drivers and barriers for improved adoption of sustainable water management among members, and; 4) Use insights from query 1-3 to identify successful means for improving adoption of sustainable water practices within wine sustainability programs. Research questions were constructed to cohere with the research aims and were inductively approached through five case studies on sustainability programs in Australia, Chile, Portugal, South Africa and USA and a literature review on relevant topics. Through a qualitative analysis of collected data, the main findings turned out as following: The examined programs make large efforts towards greater water efficiencies among members through the use of performance-indicating self-assessment systems for members on a wide range of areas relating to water management (validated by third-party audits), and by supporting members through educational events, work shops and by providing practical resources for greater adoption of sustainable practices. Member performance is primarily assessed qualitatively and no quantifications on member water use were reported. Results from programs keeping performance data suggest that efforts should be especially focused on improved irrigation water quality and storm water management. This can be addressed through increased environmental awareness through education; through demonstration of financial and environmental benefits from sustainable water management; providing resources for further member support; use of industry and regional benchmarks for member comparison; and by reducing workload for wine producers to implement sustainable water practices – which have all been highlighted as important drivers for adoption of sustainable behavior, both among case study respondents and in literature.
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