Planning For Drought The Process

Drought is a natural hazard that differs from other hazards in that it has a slow onset, evolves over months or even years, affects a large spatial region, and causes little structural damage. Its onset and end are often difficult to determine, as is its severity. Like other hazards, the impacts of drought span economic, environmental, and social sectors and can be reduced through mitigation and preparedness. Because droughts are a normal part of climate variability for virtually all regions, it is important to develop drought preparedness plans to deal with these extended periods of water shortage in a timely, systematic manner as they evolve. To be effective, these plans must evaluate a region's exposure and vulnerability to the hazard and incorporate these elements in a way that evolves with societal changes.

The 10-step drought planning process developed by Wil-hite (1991) was based largely on interactions with many states in the United States, incorporating their experiences and lessons learned. This planning process has gone through several iterations in recent years in order to tailor it to specific countries or subsets of countries (Wilhite et al., 2000). It has also been the basis for discussions at a series of regional training workshops and seminars on drought management and preparedness held throughout the world over the past decade. With the increased interest in drought mitigation planning in recent years, this planning process has evolved to incorporate more emphasis on risk assessment and mitigation tools.

The 10-step drought planning process is illustrated in Figure 2. In brief, Steps 1-4 focus on making sure the right people are brought together, have a clear understanding of the process, know what the drought plan must accomplish, and are supplied with adequate data to make fair and equitable decisions when formulating and writing the actual drought plan. Step 5 describes the process of developing an organizational structure for completion of the tasks necessary to prepare the plan. The plan should be viewed as a process, rather than a discrete event that produces a static document. A risk assessment is undertaken in conjunction with this step in order to construct a vulnerability profile for key economic sectors, population groups, regions, and communities. Steps 6 and 7 detail the need for ongoing research and coordination between scientists and policy makers. Steps 8 and 9 stress the importance of promoting and testing the plan before drought occurs. Finally, Step 10 emphasizes revising the plan to keep it current and evaluating its effectiveness in the post-drought period. Although the steps are sequential, many of these tasks are addressed simultaneously under the leadership of a drought task force and its complement of committees

Step 1

Appoint a drought task force

Step 2

State the purpose and objectives of the drought preparedness plan

Step 3

Seek stakeholder participation and resolve conflict

Step 4

Inventory resources and identify groups at risk

Step 5

Prepare/write the drought preparedness plan

Step 6

Identify research needs and fill institutional gaps

Step 7

Integrate science and policy

Step 8

Publicize the drought preparedness plan and build public awareness

Step 9

Develop education programs

Step 10

Evaluate and revise drought preparedness plan

Figure 2 Ten-step planning process. (Source: National Drought Mitigation Center, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.)

and working groups. These steps, and the tasks included in each, provide a "checklist" that should be considered and may be completed as part of the planning process.

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