A Knowledge Network Approach to Understanding Water Shortage Adaptation in Kiribati

  • Rebecca CunninghamEmail author
  • Pierre Mukheibir
  • Brent Jacobs
  • Louise Boronyak
  • Pelenise Alofa
Part of the Climate Change Management book series (CCM)


Kiribati, a small-island developing state in the Pacific, experiences a range of climate change impacts, including drought, sea-level rise, coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion to freshwater lenses. These impacts negatively affect food security and drinking water quality resulting in poor human health outcomes, particularly child morbidity. Timely warning about changes to drinking water supplies could reduce community health impacts but the existence and effectiveness of knowledge networks for water quality are unclear. This paper describes an engagement process with key stakeholders (government, community service organizations and community members) to understand how information about the impacts of climate change on potable water supplies was sought and shared using a social network analysis approach. The information networks revealed were highly fragmented and timely sharing of information was poor, which limits effective prophylactic intervention that might reduce child mortality from preventable diseases and illnesses such as diarrhoea. The main conclusion reached is that fragmented island geography and traditional forms of oral information transmission may be important factors that shape the formation and function of water knowledge networks in Kiribati. The wider application of these findings to other Pacific Island contexts requires further research to fully understand how knowledge flows could be optimized in the future.


Social network analysis Kiribati Knowledge networks Water Climate change 



This research was funded by USAID through their Pacific-American Climate Fund. The research team acknowledge the important partnership of the Kiribati Climate Action Network (KiriCAN) staff. The authors would also like to thank all who participated in this research and each of the reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca Cunningham
    • 1
    Email author
  • Pierre Mukheibir
    • 1
  • Brent Jacobs
    • 1
  • Louise Boronyak
    • 1
  • Pelenise Alofa
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Sustainable FuturesUniversity of Technology SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Kiribati Climate Action NetworkTarawaKiribati

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