Defining the drought management approaches

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Management before or during a drought period?

A reactive approach is based on the implementation of measures and actions after a drought event has started and is perceived. This approach is taken in emergency situations and often results in inefficient technical and economic solutions since actions are taken with little time to evaluate optimal actions and stakeholder participation is very limited.

A proactive or preventive approach includes all the measures designed in advance, with appropriate planning tools and stakeholder participation. The proactive approach is based both on short term and long term measures and includes monitoring systems for a timely warning of drought conditions. It can be considered an approach to "manage risk". A proactive approach consists of planning the necessary measures to prevent or minimize drought impacts in advance. Such an approach includes preparedness of planning tools which enable the consequences of a possible water emergency to be avoided or reduced, as well as the implementation of such plans when a drought occurs. The proactive approach foresees a continuous monitoring of hydrometeorological variables and of the status of water reserves in order to identify possible water crisis situations and to apply the necessary measures before a real water emergency occurs. Nevertheless, if it is not possible to avoid a water crisis that appears as a natural public calamity (after a government declaration), the Drought Contingency Plan is implemented until the establishment of normal conditions. It is evident that a proactive approach, even if more complex, is more efficient than the traditional approach, since it allows drought mitigation measures (both long term and short term) to be defined in advance, improving the quality of the interventions.

Table 1 summarizes the characteristics of the reactive and the proactive approaches.

Table 1 Characteristics of the approaches to drought management

Approaches to drought management

Characteristics

Limitations

Reactive approach

Based on the implementation of actions after a drought event has occurred and is perceived. Taken in emergency situations but not based on a contingency plan.

Often results in inefficient technical and economic solutions since actions are taken with little time for evaluating optimal actions. Limited stakeholder participation

Proactive or preventive approach

Actions designed in advance, with appropriate planning tools. Includes stakeholder participation. Provides both short and long term measures and includes early warning systems. Includes a contingency plan for emergency situations.

The ineffective coordination and cooperation between institutions and the lack of policy to support and revise the proactive plan may lead to an inadequate planning.

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Which institutional aspects are necessary for an efficient drought management?

The implementation of a proactive approach implies drafting plans in which the mitigation measures are clearly defined together with the instructions for their implementation. At this end, a clear assignment of competences among the different involved institutions appears to be a key issue; therefore a legislative act which defines the responsibilities is necessary in each country. Such an act could be part of a national water resources policy and/or strategy to fight desertification (within the U.N. convention).

No single management action, legislation or policy can respond to Photo 2 all the aspects and achieve all goals for the effective drought management. Multiple collaborative efforts are needed to integrate the multidimensional effects of drought on society

Other important aspects to take into account are:
- Stakeholders' participation;
- Management and changes in water rights legislation allowing water exchange during droughts;
- Definition of standards of efficiency to foster water saving and sanctions for those who do not respect them.

 

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