Drought Dynamics and Early Warning Systems
Droughts are slow disasters with onsets and endings that are difficult to predict and detect. They are chronic in many areas in the United States, especially in the West where rainfall and snowpack amounts can vary greatly from year to year. My work with Western Water Assessment involves extending initial research involving the dynamics of vulnerability to drought, which suggests that as communities implement adaptation and mitigation plans, unintended consequences can arise and cascade throughout other spaces and times. These effects can be magnified in areas where urban growth and agriculture intersect since water is scarce and laws that govern the appropriation and distribution of water can be inflexible. To better trace these interactions, I'm conducing three case studies in river basins where these pressures are salient: the Arkansas River Basin in Colorado; the Weber River Basin in Utah; and the Green River Basin in Wyoming.
- How do people experience, conceptualize, and prepare for drought?
- What particular kinds of harm are they exposed or sensitive to and how do they mitigate these risks?
- What surprising or unintended effects occurred around the most significant drought to date? What communities, sectors, or populations were most affected?
Other interests include developing surveys to assist local planners in better identifying and understanding community vulnerabilities and resiliences, as well as participating in the research around what constitutes an early warning system for drought.