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Drought Impacts: Vulnerability thresholds in monitoring and Early-warning Research (DrIVER)

Drought is a threat to water security in nearly every climate and water-use sector around the world, no matter the country it strikes. In recent years even well-managed water supplies in large urban areas proved vulnerable to depletion during drought.

With that in mind, the DrIVER project, an international effort that wrapped up in 2017, looked for ways to enhance understanding of drought indicators, impacts and experiences within the water-supply sector in the U.S., Australia and Europe. DrIVER stands for Drought Impacts: Vulnerability thresholds in monitoring and Early-warning Research.

We were part of the DrIVER research team, which included the Hydrology Department at the University of Freiburg, Germany; the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Wallingford, United Kingdom; the Open University in Milton Keyes, United Kingdom; and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia.

The U.S. effort focused on the Neuse and Cape Fear river basins in North Carolina, and included several webinars and workshops with representatives of federal, state and local agencies that have water management responsibilities in the region. The team produced visualizations, both descriptive and analytic, of the relationship between data from the Drought Impact Reporter and various drought indices, such as the Standardized Precipitation Index and the Palmer Drought Severity Index.

Overall project findings, generally consistent with findings from the team’s international partners in Europe and Australia, included:

  • recognition that better understanding impacts would contribute to enhanced drought early-warning systems, and that impacts help get the attention of media and policy makers;
  • that future monitoring systems should be low-cost and produce open-access data, including local drought impacts;
  • that different sectors might need forecasts and monitoring products at different time scales;
  • that post-drought assessments are valuable learning tools; and
  • that decision-making and drought communication with the public is often fragmented across several agencies.

DrIVER was made possible by one of the inaugural grants from the Belmont Forum, which connects efforts of the National Science Foundation and its international counterparts.

Find scholarly publications and presentations from the DrIVER project website.

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