Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



Eos, Vol. 89, No. 22, 27 May 2008.


Drought is an ambiguous concept. It is often difficult to tell when you are in a drought because of its slow, protracted nature and lack of news-grabbing impacts— such as water inundating communities or buildings burning—associated with other natural disasters. It is equally difficult to track the effect of drought on people, their livelihoods, and the environment because of the ubiquitous role that water plays in our world. As a result, we often wait until we are in the midst of a water crisis to seek ad hoc solutions, which can be costly, inefficient, and highly politicized.

To overcome the limitations of this crisis management approach, a risk management paradigm is being embraced by drought planners (along with planners dealing with other natural hazards). This paradigm focuses on implementing proactive strategies to reduce the likelihood of harm before a disaster occurs, instead of relying solely on reactive emergency actions during a crisis. In the case of drought, this includes developing drought monitoring and forecasting systems, implementing mitigation strategies to create more resilient systems, and creating preparedness plans that outline coordinated actions to be taken during a drought event.