Step 4: Inventory Data and Financial Resources Available and Identify Groups at Risk
An inventory of natural, biological, human, and financial resources, including the identification of constraints that may impede the policy development, may need to be initiated by the commission. In many cases, much information already exists about natural and biological resources through various provincial and national agencies/ministries. It is important to determine the vulnerability of these resources to periods of water shortage that result from drought. The most obvious natural resource of importance is water (i.e., location, accessibility, quantity, and quality), but a clear understanding of other natural resources such as climate and soils is also important. Biological/eco- logical resources refer to the quantity and quality of grasslands/rangelands, forests, wildlife, wetlands, and so forth. Human resources include the labor needed to develop water resources, lay pipeline, haul water and livestock feed, process and respond to citizen complaints, provide technical assistance, provide counseling, and direct citizens to available services.
It is also imperative to identify constraints to the policy development process and to the activation of the various elements of the policy and preparedness plans as drought conditions develop. These constraints may be physical, financial, legal, or political. The costs associated with policy development must be weighed against the losses that will likely result if no plan is in place (i.e., the cost of inaction). As stated previously, the goal of a national drought policy is to reduce the risk associated with drought and its economic, social, and environmental impacts. Legal constraints can include water rights, existing public trust laws, requirements for public water suppliers, transboundary agreements (e.g., specifying that a certain volume or share of river flow across the border has to be guaranteed), and liability issues.
The transition from crisis to risk management is difficult because, historically, little has been done to understand and address the risks associated with drought. To solve this problem, areas of high risk should be identified, as should actions that can be taken before a drought occurs to reduce those risks. Risk is defined by both the exposure of a location to the drought hazard and the vulnerability of that location to periods of drought-induced water shortages (Blaikie et al. 1994). Drought is a natural event; it is important to define the exposure (i.e., frequency of drought of various intensities and durations) of various parts of the country, province, or watershed to the drought hazard. Some areas are likely to be more at risk than others because of greater exposure to the hazard, which inhibits or shortens the recovery time between successive droughts. As a result of current and projected changes in climate and the frequency of occurrence of extreme climatic events, such as droughts, it is important to assess historical as well as projected future exposure to droughts. Vulnerability, on the other hand, is affected by social factors such as population growth and migration trends, urbanization, changes in land use, government policies, water use trends, diversity of economic base, and cultural composition. The commission can address these issues early in the policy development process, but the more detailed work associated with this risk or vulnerability process will need to be directed to specific working groups at the state or provincial level as they embark on the process of drought preparedness planning. These groups will have more precise local knowledge and will be better able to garner input from local stakeholder groups.