If you have communicated well with the public throughout the process of establishing a drought plan, there may already be better-than-normal awareness of drought and drought planning by the time you actually write the plan. Themes to emphasize in writing news stories during and after the drought planning process could include:
• How the drought plan is expected to relieve drought impacts in both the short and long term. Stories can focus on the human dimensions of drought, such as how it affects a farm family; on its environmental consequences, such as reduced wildlife habitat; and on its economic effects, such as the costs to a particular industry or to the state or region's overall economy.
• What changes people might be asked to make in response to different degrees of drought, such as restricted lawn watering and car washing or not irrigating certain crops at certain times.
In subsequent years, you may want to do "drought plan refresher" news releases at the beginning of the most drought-sensitive season, letting people know whether there is pressure on water supplies or reason to believe shortfalls will occur later in the season, and reminding them of the plan's existence, history, and any associated success stories. It may be useful to refresh people's memories about circumstances that would lead to water use restrictions.
During drought, the task force should work with public information professionals to keep the public well informed of the status of water supplies, whether conditions are approaching "trigger points" that will lead to requests for voluntary or mandatory use restrictions, and how victims of drought can access assistance. Post all pertinent information on the drought task force's website so that the public can get information directly from the task force without having to rely on mass media.
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