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Overview
Every year as summer approaches, concerns grow about drought. Drought is defined as a period in which a region has a deficit in its water supply. Drought is a normal feature of climate which happens in all climate zones from time to time. Agricultural droughts impact crop production and cause changes to the natural distribution of various species. The farms themselves also cause droughts to happen as soil is depleted and therefore cannot absorb as much water, but they can be impacted by natural droughts as well. Because drought is defined
as a deficit in water supply, it can be caused by a number of factors. The most important one though relates to the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere as this is what creates rain. If there is an above average presence of dry, high pressure air systems, less moisture is available to produce rain (because these systems cannot hold as much water vapor) and this results in a deficit of water for the areas over which they move. The same can also happen when winds shift air masses and warm, dry, air moves over an area as opposed to cooler, moist, oceanic air masses. El Nino, which affects the ocean's water temperature, also has an impact on precipitation levels because in years when the temperature cycle is present, it can shift the air masses above the ocean, often making wet places dry (drought prone) and dry places wet.Finally, deforestation for agriculture and/or building combined with the resultant erosion can also cause drought to begin
because as soil is moved away from an area it is less able to absorb moisture when it falls.Most of the economic impacts of drought are associated with agriculture and the income generated from crops. In times of drought, the lack of water can often cause a decline in crop yields, and thus a reduction in income for farmers and an increase in the market price of products since there is less to go around. In a prolonged drought, unemployment of farmers and even retailers can occur, having a significant impact on the economy of the area.

Impacts of Drought
In terms of environmental problems, drought can result in insect infestations and plant diseases, increased erosion, habitat and landscape degradation, a decrease in air quality and that of what water is present, as well as an increased risk of fire because of drier vegetation. In short-term droughts, natural environments can often rebound, but when there are long term droughts, plant and animal species can suffer tremendously, and over time desertification can happen with an extreme lack of moisture. Finally, droughts have social impacts that can cause disputes between users of available water, inequalities in water distribution between wealthy and poor, disparities in areas in need of disaster relief, and a decline in health. In addition, population migration can begin when one
area experiences drought because often people will go to areas where water and its benefits are more prevalent. This then depletes the natural resources of the new area, can create conflicts among neighboring populations, and takes workers away from the original area. Over time, increased poverty and social unrest may develop.

Risks & Mitigations
Drought is the most complex of all natural hazards as it affects more people than any other hazard. Drought should not be viewed only as a physical phenomenon or natural event as it has subsequent negative impact on the economic, environment and the society. The less predictable characteristics of droughts, with respect to their initiation and termination, as well as to their severity, make drought both a hazard and a disaster. A hazard because it is a natural accident of unpredictable occurrence, and a disaster because it corresponds to the failure of the precipitation regime, causing the disruption of the water supply. Globally, examining the effects of the recent drought in many areas demonstrates its wide reaching impacts on society and the environment. This is quite apparent through the widespread crop failures and livestock losses; increased disease, stress and other social problems; reduced hydropower generation and increased soil erosion and fire occurrence, forced mass migration to urban areas and other countries, and reduced security and the local and national levels. Major emphasis should be placed on developing appropriate drought plans that outline proactive strategies that can be implemented before, during and after drought in order to reduce
drought impacts, and to decide on the specific mitigation actions that can be taken to reduce short and long terms drought risks.

Drought planning
Drought planning provides an opportunity for decision makers to identify sectors that are vulnerable to drought and investigate management options before a crisis occur and thereby decide on and implement the most appropriate and cost effective strategies available, in a strategic and systematic manner. Recent drought and increasing demands on available water along with unfavourable climate change resources have brought greater awareness of the need to plane for future drought events. In addressing solutions to mitigate drought, a comprehensive and systemic approach is needed to understand the causes, effects and management mechanisms of drought crisis. Plans should be viewed as a practical step by step process for identifying actions that can be taken before a drought.

Four fundamental steps have to be carefully followed.
  • The first, the crucial one, begins with making sure that the right people are brought together and supplied with adequate data to make informed decisions during the process.
  • The second is identifying high priority drought related impacts
  • The third is to understand the underlying environmental, economic and social causes of impacts.
  • The fourth is to utilize all of the previous information to identify feasible, cost effective and equitable actions that can be taken to address the causes.

Water resources management planning and drought mitigation
The traditional approach has been characterized as being of the reactive type, or emergency response or crisis management or unplanned response. This approach is not only extremely costly but also not effective in reaching equitably the needy areas and people. Activities in this approach are often fragmented between several institutions, with limited coordination.

The proactive approach consists of measures that are planned in advance, as a strategy to prepare for drought and to mitigate its effects. The planning process takes place before the onset of drought whereas its implementation is partitioned over a long period of time. A proactive planning approach to drought consists of two categories of measures, both planned in advance:
  • Long-term actions, oriented to reduce the vulnerability of water supply systems to drought.
  • Short-term actions, which try to face an incoming particular drought event within the existing framework of infrastructures and management policies.
The overriding objectives of the long-term actions is adjustment to drought conditions, as a proactive and preparatory measure, such as the increase of water storage capacity, the adoption of water saving technology, the recharge of ground water, etc. These are supplemented by short term measures including relief programmes, crop insurance schemes, changes in land use, use of both surface and underground water, as well as use of non conventional water resources.

Drought mitigation policies
Policies should be developed by placing greater emphasis on risk management rather than the crisis one. Simply it could be stated that a drought policy should establish a clear set of principals or operating guidelines to govern the management of drought and its impact. Equally, the policy should be consistent and equitable for population groups, economic sectors and with the goals of sustainable development and reducing risk by developing better awareness and understanding of the drought hazard.
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