Water Grand Challenges: Drought Policy and Contingency Planning
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The 2011 drought was the worst one-year drought recorded since formal record keeping began, and Texas has continued to suffer from severe drought conditions. Scientific evidence has shown that “severe decadal-scale droughts have occurred in Texas at least once a century since the 1500s.”1 According to the state climatologist, the two-year period following the summer of 2011 already ranks as the third worst drought of record in Texas. Although federal and state organizations do provide preparedness and planning assistance to ameliorate the effects of drought, no single agency is responsible for responding to, or preventing, drought.2 This is partly due to the fact that drought is a hazard that can encompass a large area and cover an extended period of time. Drought severity is also highly variable depending on the location. For example, during the summer of 2011, Athens, Georgia and Lubbock, Texas reported severe drought conditions over a three-month period.3 However, Lubbock received nearly nine inches less rain than Athens did during that time. Such differences in perceived drought conditions make federal and state mitigation and response more difficult to prescribe.3 With shifting climatic patterns and the anticipation of prolonged dry weather to come, drought contingency and preparedness planning is imperative to preventing widespread economic, human, and environmental losses. In order to ensure the security of water resources during times of drought, mechanisms at the state and federal level have been proposed and implemented to promote resilience and improve emergency response.