Monday, April 23, 2018

National Drought Mitigation Center

Drought-Ready Communities

Guide to Community Drought Preparedness cover

The Drought-Ready Communities pilot project culminated in summer 2010 with a Guide to Community Drought Preparedness that communities throughout the United States can use to understand and reduce their drought risk.

The process outlined in the Guide is broad-based, recognizing that drought creates problems that go beyond the scope of what water suppliers alone can address. Worksheets and other exercises can help communities see how drought has affected water supplies and overall community well-being in the past. The Guide can also help communities identify their drought monitoring resources, so they can spot emerging drought. A planning section helps communities determine steps they can take  to reduce their drought risk ahead of time. It also recommends planning responses to drought before the next one happens. The Guide includes case studies and an extensive resource collection on how other municipalities have planned for drought, including both processes and solutions.

Drought-Ready Communities was a two-year project sponsored by the Sectoral Applications Research Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Administration. It was a collaborative effort by the National Drought Mitigation Center, the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, the Illinois State Water Survey and State Climatologist’s Office, and the Lower Platte River Corridor Alliance. Three pilot communities, representing a range of water supply sources, population sizes, and economic baselines, were invited to participate in the development of the DRC methodology and all associated materials. The three pilot communities included Nebraska City, NE; Decatur, IL; and Norman, OK.

Anticipated benefits of drought-readiness include:

  • Increased community awareness of water, climate, and drought
  • Reduced dollar losses during the next drought
  • Reduced stress during the next drought
  • Protecting animals’ habitat 
  • Increased community resilience to drought and other hazards

Anticipated outcomes include:

  • Understanding past droughts and their impacts on the community
  • Implementing a system to monitor drought conditions and impacts
  • Establishing regular communication about drought conditions and impacts
  • Knowing what actions to take before and during a drought

The Drought-Ready Communities Guide to Community Drought Preparedness process is divided into five major areas:

Getting Started (Section 1)

This section takes a community through the initial steps of becoming Drought-Ready. Communities will form a leadership team, identify specific community benefits of drought planning, start a drought contact list, and gather community drought perceptions.

Information Gathering (Section 2)

This section will guide the community in assembling the best available information for decision-making. The community will learn how to record information about its water sources and users, gather information about past droughts and impacts, and identify factors that could serve to reduce or intensify the local effects of drought.

Establish Monitoring (Section 3)

This section takes a community through the process of developing a monitoring system to assess its current drought status. In this step a community will identify pertinent drought indicators to monitor real-time conditions, designate one or more people to regularly monitor drought conditions, identify the types of impacts to be monitored, and develop a “Drought Monitoring Report” to be disseminated on a regular basis to interested people or groups.

Public Awareness and Education (Section 4)

This section details the development of a public awareness and education campaign to encourage public support of the Drought-Ready Community process. Specifically, it guides communities through the process of developing a strategy, gathering educational materials, and assigning an implementation schedule.

Planning Responses (Section 5)

This section synthesizes the information developed in all the other sections. In Section 5, the community will create a list of strategies and actions that should be undertaken before and during a drought to reduce negative impacts, and will identify specific thresholds to help decide when to implement the pre-defined actions during a drought.

Next Steps

The Drought Ready Communities research team is seeking additional resources to work with organizations and communities to make community-level drought planning more widespread. One of our goals is to expand the collection of case studies detailing different communities’ experiences with different parts of the process.
For more information on how your community can become involved, please contact one of the research team:

Mark Svoboda, Principal Investigator, National Drought Mitigation Center, Lincoln, NE, 402-472-8238,
Kelly Helm Smith, National Drought Mitigation Center, 402-472-3373,
Cody Knutson, National Drought Mitigation Center, 402-472-6718,
Meghan Sittler, Lower Platte River Corridor Alliance, Lincoln, NE, 402-476-2729,
Jim Angel, Illinois State Climatologist, 217-333-0729,
Mike Spinar, Midwestern Regional Climate Center and Illinois State Water Survey, 217-265-6356,
Mark Shafer, Oklahoma Climatological Survey, 405-325-3044,
Renee McPherson, Oklahoma Climatological Survey,
Heather Lazrus, University of Oklahoma,


Tracking Response and Recovery from the 2012-2014 Drought looks at how a central plains community of just under 8,000 residents, McCook, Nebraska, used the Community Capitals Framework to identify their resources for drought resilience. Released in October 2017 by the NDMC.

Drought Resiliency Planning Prepares Stakeholders for New Conditions, a case study of creating a drought plan in a rural Montana watershed, was released in July 2017.

The National Drought Mitigation Center and the National Integrated Drought Information System worked with the American Planning Association on a Planning Advisory Service report, Planning and Drought, released in January 2014. 

The Extension Disaster Education Network's Drought Working Group and National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster produced the Community Capacity-Building Program for Drought Response in 2013. The multi-agency, multi-organization effort to help communities tackle drought issues draws from the National VOAD Long-Term Recovery Manual, from the Guide to Drought-Ready Communities, and from other resources.

Drought-Ready Norman, a compilation of reports that could serve as a foundation for drought planning for the city of Norman, Oklahoma, USA. Released in March 2010.

Building Resilience in Rural Communities Toolkit from the University of Queensland, Australia. Released in 2008

The National Drought Mitigation Center | University of Nebraska-Lincoln
3310 Holdrege Street | P.O. Box 830988 | Lincoln, NE 68583–0988
phone: (402) 472–6707 | fax: (402) 472–2946 | Contact Us | Web Policy

University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Copyright 2018 National Drought Mitigation Center