An Assessment of Municipal Drought Contingency Planning in Texas
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Water availability is an important environmental issue in the United States. Since water is becoming more a limited natural resource, water policy will be a primary source of controversy, specifically during periods of drought. Recent widespread droughts have raised concerns about our nation’s vulnerability to periods of water shortages. It is imperative that public administrators of municipal water supply systems develop drought contingency plans that deal with water shortages in a timely and systematic manner because droughts are a normal part of the climate for most regions, especially for Texas. The purpose of this research is twofold. The first purpose is to explain the ideal components of a municipal drought contingency plan. The elements include public involvement, drought response triggering criteria, successive stages of response, drought response management measures, enforcement and plan adoption. The next objective is to assess the drought contingency plans of retail public water suppliers submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to determine which retail public water suppliers utilized the model drought contingency plan and how close all the plans met the ideal components. The overall assumption of this research is that the model drought contingency plan developed by the TCEQ is an effective tool for retail public water suppliers in Texas to aid them in meeting the regulatory components of drought contingency plans. The first portion of this research examines, from a national level, the concept of drought, drought impacts, future impacts facing municipal public water suppliers, problems with traditional drought planning, drought policy, and lessons learned from previous droughts. A conceptual framework for a municipal drought contingency plan is developed from the review of available literature. The purpose of the review is to explain the components of an ideal plan. The paper later focuses on Texas, the setting for this research. A brief overview of Texas droughts and projections are presented. A description is provided for both the model drought contingency plan and the municipal drought contingency plans selected for assessment. The later part of the paper discusses the methodology used to assess the municipal drought contingency plans submitted to the TCEQ by retail public water suppliers in Texas. Content analysis is used to determine which municipal public water suppliers utilized the TCEQ model drought contingency plan in developing their plans and which did not. After determining which suppliers utilized the model, content analysis is further used for each of the drought contingency plans to determine which ideal components are included in all of the plans. A discussion of how the practical ideal type of a municipal drought contingency plan is operationalized into measurable items for assessment is provided. The findings of the analysis confirm that the model plan in Texas is an effective tool for retail public water suppliers in meeting the required components of drought contingency plans. The paper concludes with a summary of the research findings in relation to the practical ideal type of the model drought contingency plan in Texas and concludes with recommendations and suggestions for additional research.