Water scarcity and droughts events in Italy are occurring more frequently than in previous decades and are forecasted to be more severe in the future. Current water management will likely be no more suitable to face extreme events and more efficient instruments to balance future demand and supply of water resources, like water markets, are needed. The paper provides a description of the water scarcity and droughts issues as they are determined by climate change along with related weather patterns predictions for the next decades in Italy. Potential policy options that could be suitable for mitigating the effects of future weather patterns on the Italian agricultural sector are presented and critically commented. Social acceptability of economic and policy instruments, envisaged for tackling the issues of water scarcity and droughts, is explored by a twofold perspective: i) analyzing the argument by referring to recent scientific findings and ii) examining empirically the elicited social sensitiveness to both the phenomena and the instruments as regard the Italian context. The results show a prevailing awareness of the interviewees with regard the climate change phenomena and a common consensus about the need of improving the efficiency in water management. Surprisingly, a positive attitude toward the engagement in water exchange mechanisms emerged along with a preference for farm-to-farm and agriculture-domestic water exchanges. Normative and ethical inertias represents the major obstacle for the social acceptability and development of water markets. Information plays a major role in reducing biases in social perception of the water scarcity and droughts phenomena and related contrasting measures. Research is needed to address the interactions between social acceptability, economic viability and implementability of the proposed instruments.


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