Drought -- National Drought Mitigation Center


Date of this Version



Published in Water International 19:1 (March 1994), pp. 15–24.


Copyright © 1994 International Water Resources Association (IWRA). Used by permission.


Drought is a recurrent feature of the American landscape. Almost without exception, the occurrence of widespread severe drought in the United States has illustrated the low level of drought preparedness that has existed in federal and state governments. Many state governments, however, have developed formal drought contingency plans since 1982. The primary purpose of this article is to explore some factors that may have influenced the drought planning process at the state level in the United States during the past decade. First, an overview of state drought planning is presented, followed by an exploration of the possible policy influence of a specific set of factors in prompting state drought plan development. This will help to demonstrate that the development of state drought plans is not solely contingent on recent drought experiences. The authors suggest that, in some instances, social, political, and institutional influences on state drought planning since the early 1980s may be as important as, or even more important than, the climatology of drought. The paper concludes by proposing some future directions for state and federal drought planning efforts in the United States. An understanding of the complex issues affecting drought planning in the United States may help other countries understand the factors that might affect the drought planning process in their own unique political setting.