Drought Mitigation Case Study

Published: 2021-06-22 00:37:40
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Drought can be defined as weather related disaster where there is a continuous and consistent shortfall of moisture within the atmosphere enough to cause undesirable effects on the ecosystem within a given area over a given period of time. (Warwick, 1975) Drought is caused by a lack of precipitation over a long period of time that results in water shortage leading to adverse effects in the environment affecting plants, animals and humans. What is considered drought in one part of the world may not be considered drought in a different place. For instance what is considered drought in the Congo Rain Forests where rains are expected every is different from what may be considered drought in the Sahara Desert where rains are scarce and far between.
Mitigation refers to the alleviation of the severity, frequency or magnitude of risk exposure. It is the efforts taken to ensure that the impacts of a given threat are optimally minimized.
Drought Mitigation can therefore be defined as the concerted effort by all parties and stakeholders in a given period of drought, predicted or otherwise being experienced, to reduce the potential risks associated with the continued shortfall of rain in the area.
Background on Drought
Drought is mainly a lack of water for a given period of time. Because drought comes over a given period it is an easily distinguishable a natural disaster unlike other natural disasters that are unforeseen. Mitigation efforts can therefore be planned as the drought persists. In view of other natural disaster, drought could be considered a “lady” as it gives plenty of warning signals before it actually occurs and when it finally does occur, it happens over months sometimes years.
Drought mainly affects crops and crop production which in turn disturbs the food chain in the animal species and man. Due to man’s dependence on water, drought whether in the short or long term can have adverse economic effects, social impact and environmental concerns.
Why Drought Mitigation Makes Sense
Economically, drought leads to poor crop production hence low income generated from agricultural produce by farmers. Over a prolonged period the ripple effects of this include higher prices for basic food commodities and unemployment for farmers (not able to produce) as well as the retailers or middlemen in the agricultural supply chain. Further communities that use water for power generation may suffer power black outs and periods of rationing all the while increasing the cost of power and further the cost of production for many other goods and services.
Socially drought could lead to war between communities particularly in places where water sources are scarce and a clear disparity lies between the water wealthy communities and water poor in respect of the areas they occupy. Further, lack of water could lead to requirement for relief efforts and poor health. Prolonged periods of drought would lead to migration of communities in search of water which I further likely to cause completion for the scarce resource that is water. During drought there is an increase competition for water resources not only amongst human beings but also amongst animals – wild and domestic and plants – adapted to drought or not.
Environmentally, drought has been known to cause its most adverse effects to the environment. Some of the effects that may be suffered include change of landscapes that were previously green to one that is dry, soil erosion, increase in plant and animal diseases and higher fire risks due to the dried vegetation. In its extremity over a long period of time, a given ecosystem may be reduced into a desert.
The places likely to suffer the drought in the United States include a variety of places in California such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Oxnard and Riverside, Ontario Salt Lake City in Utah, Nashville and Knoxville in Tennessee and Birmingham, Atlanta. (Sperling Best Places, 2012) In the world, Asia and Africa have the largest combination of the world’s dry lands estimated at 42% and 41% respectively. (Food and Agriculture Organisation, 2012)
Drought mitigation makes sense because it will reduce the adverse effects and risks suffered by the people experiencing the drought. In some cases efforts to mitigate drought may stop the long term effects of drought such as desertification and save lives of animals, plants and human beings.
Drought Mitigation Approaches
SoilConservation: soil is protected by tilling it before the rains to ensure that hard soil is broken thus allowing for better water permeation before planting. Tilling land ensures that weeds which would consume soil water are removed. Soil protection also allows it to absorb precipitation better consequently farmers require less water as there is more absorption and less run off. This is not only good for drought mitigation as the soil is moist and ready for planting but it also helps prevent environmental pollution because fertilizers do not run off the farms to contaminate other water sources. (Briney, 2012) Soil improvement must also be carried out after each planting season to ensure that the soil nutrients are restored.
Water Conservation: public water consumption must be monitored and regulated. When making consideration for water conservation strategies such as water recycling and rain water harvesting should be taken into account. These will allow communities to save water in anticipation of the dry periods to be consumed when the drought strikes. In the short term, they provide an alternative source of water for agricultural purposes and domestic use. In addition use of technology such as toilets and shower heads with low flow can be instrumental in reducing the overall domestic water consumption.
Agricultural Techniques and Approaches: use of animals and crops that have been genetically modified to resist drought and well suited to grow during periods of drought. Plants such as maize and cotton require dependable rains or sources of water to grow productively. In addition, an efficient irrigation technique such drip irrigation ensures that enough water as required by the crops is spent on them. This in turn ensures that water does not evaporate before it has been made sufficient use of by the crops. Techniques such as inter-cropping can be helpful in the sense that they allow two different crops to make use of the same land at the same time. A good example of intercropping is growing trees and sorghum for fodder. Intercropping further ensures the farmer from total loss in the event of drought. (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, 2001)
Land Use Planning: some lands will never be suitable for either farming or pastoralism. Such land can be planned for other activities such as construction to make it productive rather than letting it remain idol. Where planting can still be done, planting short term crops such as legumes can be considered to insure the farmers from loss and or risk of loss.
Impact assessment: both environmental and drought impact assessments should be carried out often. Environmental Impact assessment can be conducted to assist communities know what actions may lead them to experience drought. Drought Impact Assessment is conducted after a period of drought to take into account the losses suffered afterwards. In both cases, the reports can be used to remedy potential drought causing actions and learn from past experience to ensure best practices are carried forward. (Hamdy & Trisorio, 2004)
Drought Mitigation Options
Mitigation Approach
Structural or nonstructural
Rate on Cost
Rate on Benefit
Rate on Ease
Soil Conservation
National and
Water Conservation
National and
Agricultural Approaches and Techniques
Land Use Planning
National and
Impact Assessment
National and
Briney, A. (2012). Consequences and Mitigation of Drought. Retrieved from About Geography: http://geography.about.com/od/globalproblemsandissues/a/drought_2.htm
Food and Agriculture Organisation. (2012). Drylands, People and Land Use. Retrieved from Food and Agriculture Organisation: http://www.fao.org/docrep/012/i0372e/i0372e01.pdf
Hamdy, A., & Trisorio, G. L. (2004). Drought planning and Drought mitigation measures in the Mediterranean Region. Options Mediterraneenes Series A. No. 80, 235 - 239.
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics . (2001). How can we mitigate drought? Retrieved from Lesson 2: http://test1.icrisat.org/vasat1/learning_resources/drought/html/m4l2/resources/coping_with_drought/1691.html
Sperling Best Places. (2012). America's Drought-Riskiest Cities. Retrieved from Best Places to Live & Retire, Homes for Sale: http://www.bestplaces.net/docs/studies/drought.aspx
Warwick, R. A. (1975). Drought Hazard in the United States: A research assesment. Boulder, Colarado: University of Colorado, Institute of Behavioural Science.

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