METHODSThe findings presented here are based upon the results of a longstanding collaboration between WWF and the GIWP (General Institute of Water and Hydropower, China) to develop a new strategic approach to drought risk management in order to support water managers and policy makers (both in China and globally) in delivering better drought risk management and therefore better social, economic and ecological outcomes. This highly productive collaboration has included (i) a review of international best practice, (ii) the identification of lessons from historical droughts, and (iii) various face-to-face expert working sessions involving WWF (UK and China), leading specialists in China (from the GIWP), and international experts.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONThe paper will clarify what is meant by a 'drought' in modern times and propose an ontology, or organised structure, for articulating the various components of droughts. Building on this and recent developments in risk management and ecosystem management, a new framework for modern drought risk management is proposed. The text below presents the highlights from this work.
How to distinguish between drought and water scarcity? Beyond the general understanding that drought is about the lack of water, there is a multitude of formal definitions that reflect evolving perceptions of drought and its impact. Drought relates to an extreme event and should be viewed as distinct from the longer-term issue of water scarcity. Water scarcity arises when the average water demand (from humans and the environment) is higher than the long-term renewable supply. The degree of water scarcity within a basin will influence drought risk and how to manage it.
An organised structure, or ontology, of drought is proposed that highlights the twin drivers of drought: climate variability and anthropogenic effects. It distinguishes the different types of drought (i.e. Meteorological, Blue Water and Green Water Droughts), illustrating how they are linked. It also defines the associated impacts of drought on human systems and ecosystems.
The purpose of modern drought risk management. Through the study there emerged four main goals: (1) to safeguard individual needs, (2) to safeguard and promote ecosystems, (3) to maintain economic functions, (4) to ensure societal well-being. The second purpose emerges from an increasing awareness of the benefits of on ecosystems-based approach to disaster risk reduction, highlighted by the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005), as well as a need to take a 'whole systems' view of drought management - i.e. understand the interdependencies of the humans and ecosystems and work to build the resilience of this interconnected system.
A new framework of strategic drought risk management is proposed that consists of 3 inter-related phases: (1) Preparedness phase, that takes a long term view and focuses on building resilience to future droughts; (2) Response phase, where the focus becomes increasingly centred on actions to minimise impacts and where actions escalate through 3 stages: pre-alert, alert, emergency; (3) Recovery phase, where the focus moves to promoting rapid recovery of the human and freshwater systems.
A key outcome of the study was the development of a set of characteristics that underpin a strategic and effective approach to drought risk management:Characteristic 1: Understands the whole system behaviour (including the relationships between humans and ecosystems) and aims to achieve societal goals.Characteristic 2: Uses knowledge of risk and uncertainty to inform decisions.Characteristic 3: Implements a portfolio of measures and instruments (including capitalising on the benefits that good ecosystem management can bring to reducing drought risks).Characteristic 4: Monitors, reviews and adapts.
CONCLUSIONSThrough synthesising lessons and best practice from past drought experiences it is clear that significant opportunity exists to manage drought better. In particular, (1) there is still much ambiguity over what is meant by drought and how this differs from water scarcity; (2) risk-based approaches to drought management are only just emerging, with much of drought risk management still based on a 'standards based' approach that use historical 'reference droughts' as the basis of planning; (3) the importance of protecting ecosystems in order to reduce drought risk has not yet been fully realised in drought management. The new conceptual understanding of drought risk management to be presented in this paper provides a useful guidance to make this transition.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThis study has been made possible through an ongoing partnership between WWF and the GIWP, China. The contribution from various colleagues in WWF and the GIWP (including Dr Dave Tickner and Prof Li) as well as various international collaborators is gratefully acknowledged.
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