Science, information, and governance in U.S. drought planning and management

The U.S. has recently experienced its share of extreme droughts, with particularly acute impacts occurring in the rapidly expanding Southeast and Southwest. Droughts will likely increase in severity, frequency, and duration with climate change in these regions. This leaves decision makers in both areas faced with managing a triple threat of population expansion, increasing urbanization, and climatic variability and change. Drought planning and management in the U.S. is coordinated at the state-level. The Federal government and local entities have traditionally operated on the periphery. Approaches, successes, and missteps have varied considerably within and between states in the Southeast and Southwest. As states begin to move from emergency response toward preparedness and mitigation planning and adaptive and integrated management, science and information are becoming more critical. Also with this shift, new roles for the Federal government and local entities as active participants in the planning and management process leave questions regarding which drought governance arrangements are the most effective, adaptable, and sustainable. This research investigates the relationships between science, information, and governance in Arizona and Georgia drought planning and management. Specifically, it examines the influence of these factors on adaptive capacity to extreme drought events and sustainability. It draws from data collected using an event history calendar in 35 of the largest community water systems, and a telephone questionnaire of key informants at the state and Federal levels. It identifies the potential conflicts, tradeoffs, and pressures at different organizational scales and what might work to alleviate these tensions.

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