Planning for drought: Moving from crisis to risk management

Donald A. Wilhite, Michael J. Hayes, Cody Knutson, Kelly Helm Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

188 Scopus citations


Severe drought is a recurring problem for the United States, as illustrated by widespread economic, social, and environmental impacts. Recent drought episodes and the widespread drought conditions in 1996, 1998, and 1999 emphasized this vulnerability and the need for a more proactive, risk management approach to drought management that would place greater emphasis on preparedness planning and mitigation actions. Drought planning has become a principal tool of states and other levels of government to improve their response to droughts. For example, since 1982, the number of states with drought plans has increased from 3 to 29. Many local governments have also adopted drought or water shortage plans. Unfortunately, most state drought plans were established during the 1980s and early 1990s and emphasize emergency response or crisis management rather than risk management. This paper presents a substantive revision of a 10-step drought planning process that has been applied widely in the United States and elsewhere. The revised planning process places more weight on risk assessment and the development and implementation of mitigation actions and programs. The goal of this paper is to encourage states to adopt this planning process in the revision of existing drought plans or, for states without plans, in the development of new plans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)697-710
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Drought planning
  • Water management
  • Water policy
  • Water resources planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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