Socioeconomic definitions of drought associate the supply and demand of some economic good with elements of meteorological, hydrological, and agricultural drought. It differs from the aforementioned types of drought because its occurrence depends on the time and space processes of supply and demand to identify or classify droughts. The supply of many economic goods, such as water, forage, food grains, fish, and hydroelectric power, depends on weather. Because of the natural variability of climate, water supply is ample in some years but unable to meet human and environmental needs in other years. Socioeconomic drought occurs when the demand for an economic good exceeds supply as a result of a weather-related shortfall in water supply. For example, in Uruguay in 1988–89, drought resulted in significantly reduced hydroelectric power production because power plants were dependent on streamflow rather than storage for power generation. Reducing hydroelectric power production required the government to convert to more expensive (imported) petroleum and implement stringent energy conservation measures to meet the nation’s power needs.
In most instances, the demand for economic goods is increasing as a result of increasing population and per capita consumption. Supply may also increase because of improved production efficiency, technology, or the construction of reservoirs that increase surface water storage capacity. If both supply and demand are increasing, the critical factor is the relative rate of change. Is demand increasing more rapidly than supply? If so, vulnerability and the incidence of drought may increase in the future as supply and demand trends converge.
1Wilhite, D.A.; and M.H. Glantz. 1985. Understanding the Drought Phenomenon: The Role of Definitions. Water International 10(3):111–120.