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Checklist for Evaluating the Need to Update a Drought Plan

An existing Drought Plan may need to be updated for many reasons: key management officials may be unaware of it; the plan may not have been reviewed within the last three years; the plan components may be technically outdated; the current probable drought impacts may be significantly different from those existing when the plan was developed; or the significant concerned entities (water users or programs of other agencies) may have changed.

The following checklist is provided to help evaluate an existing plan. In some instances, the evaluation may indicate the need for only a review of the plan. In other cases, specific parts of the plan may be identified as needing revision. The checklist is general, and is structured to address organizations as varied as state governments and local utilities.

The checklist is adapted from an article by Anne Steinman, Assistant Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. The article, "Drought Contingency Planning: Evaluating The Effectiveness of Plans," appeared in the September/October 1998 issue of the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management. Many of the questions in the checklist were developed by Dr. Steinman.

The checklist is divided into three sections: Awareness of the Existing Plan; Preparation of the Existing Plan; and Contents of the Existing Plan. Each section is further divided into specific questions, with a short narrative to indicate the nature of the issue to be addressed.

Awareness of an Existing Plan
Preparation of the Existing Plan
Contents of the Existing Plan

Awareness of an Existing Plan

A drought contingency plan should physically exist, with a known location, and it should be periodically reviewed by the key management officials expected to make the decisions outlined in the plan.

1. Has the plan been reviewed by key management officials (those who will be called upon to make recommendations and decisions during the next drought) within the last three years?

2. Has the plan been reviewed by key management officials (those who will be called upon to make recommendations and decisions during the next drought) who have assumed their positions since the plan was written?

3. Do the key management officials know that a plan exists?

4. Could a key management official locate a copy of the plan with a maximum of two phone calls?

Preparation of the Existing Plan

The preparation or revision of the plan should reflect the most current policies, priorities, knowledge and expertise.

1. Were the current key management officials involved in the preparation/revision of the existing plan?

2. Did the plan preparation/revision involve water users and outside agencies?

3. Were the current Drought Task Force members (or members of other coordinating groups) who will be called upon to make recommendations involved in the existing plan preparation/revision?

Contents of the Existing Plan

Specific plan components are expected to reflect water supply sources, the demand patterns of existing water users, and the management priorities and criteria of the water managers, and also be a contemporary statement of what will be done by whom, when, why, and under what conditions, to respond to the impacts caused by a drought.

1. Does the plan represent current management priorities?

2. Does the plan reflect changes in demand that affect vulnerability?

3. Does the plan address mitigation measures that are supposed to reduce the impact of future droughts?

4. Does the plan identify the areas of risk (acceptable and non-acceptable) and identify the actions to reduce the unacceptable risks? Does it make provisions to modify the response actions after the mitigation actions are taken?

5. Is the plan part of an overall water planning process that includes demand management (conservation) in normal water years?

6. Does the plan establish a schedule for agency testing and revision?

7. Are local, state, and federal agencies identified and expected to coordinate drought monitoring and response efforts? Are there clear roles and responsibilities? Do the current key officials in these other agencies know of and accept their identified roles?

8. Does the plan identify indices that are applicable to the local water supplies and probable drought impacts?

9. Does the plan distinguish between indicators for the start and end of a drought and indicators for the start and end of drought impacts?

10. Does the agency coordinate drought indicators with other agencies?

11. Does the plan consider a range of response measures?

12. Are the criteria for selecting and evaluating the alternative response measures clearly stated, and do they reflect current water allocation priorities?

13. Do the criteria for selecting response measures include (for instance) efficiency, equitable distribution of impacts, acceptability, ease of implementation, anticipated water use reductions, historical reliability?

14. Does the plan provide clear goals and objectives for each level of response, and a quantitative basis for assessing progress toward these objectives?

15. Does the plan provide flexibility in the timing and staging of drought response measures? Are there procedures to evaluate this strategy?

16. Does the plan provide for evaluating how effective the drought response was and provide for revising the plan after each drought?

17. What surprises were encountered during the last drought that were not anticipated in the existing plan?

Updated June 4, 1999

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