EarthLabs > Drought > Lab 7: Is Your Region Ready for a Drought? > 7B: A Community Meeting

Is Your Region Ready for a Drought?

Part B. A Community Meeting

A common response cycle by members of the public to drought issues. Drought planning and preparedness are meant to break this illogical cycle.

Imagine that the region where you live is beginning to show signs of drought. Precipitation has been below normal for several months and crops in the area are looking stressed. What will your community do to ensure that there will be enough water for the most essential purposes? Will people be willing to examine their water use behavior and implement conservation rules or a rationing plan? How will you inspire members of your community to break out of the "Hydro-Illogical Cycle" illustrated at right to develop a relevant, reasonable plan for dealing with drought?

You and your classmates will stage a meeting to play out some of the issues that would have to be faced in your own community if drought set in. Students will play various roles in the meeting, all working toward the end task of coming up with a plan that would minimize the impact of drought.

  1. As a class, brainstorm a list of stakeholders who are concerned with water use and distribution in your community.
    Include people who represent agriculture, industry, recreation, landscapers, car wash owners, hydroelectric dam managers, natural resource managers, tourism bureaus, government officials, etc.
  2. Refine the list to end up with a reasonable representation of the water-using and water-managing stakeholders in your own community.
  3. Assign the identified roles to individual students or small groups. Research the issue of water use in your community from the point of view of the role you are playing.
  4. In addition to accessing local or state records about water availability and use, the following documents and websites can serve as starting points for research:

Planning Your Meeting

  1. Students who are in decision-maker's roles will draw up an agenda of issues to cover at the meeting. Students in other roles are encouraged to provide input as well, just as community members bring their concerns to city councils or other elected officials.
  2. At a minimum, the group should come up with a list of specific strategies for reducing water use and an agreement about how the strategies will be enforced. Students in each role should participate in the meeting by discussing the impact of reduced water availability from the point of view of their assigned role.
    • Identify a list of strategies that would be most effective in reducing water use in your community.
      • Would restricting people from using water for non-essential purposes save enough of the available water for essential needs? Who will decide which uses of water are essential and non-essential? Individuals in various roles will likely have differing opinions about various uses of water.

        You may decide to discuss and classify the following water uses as essential or non-essential at your meeting.

        • Watering crops
        • Watering lawns
        • Keeping industries that employ people operating
        • Watering athletic fields
        • Watering vegetable gardens
        • Watering of ornamental landscaping
        • Watering golf courses
        • Filling water hazards on golf courses
        • Watering grass and plants in parks
        • Washing paved surfaces
        • Filling fountains and ornamental ponds
        • Washing cars, trucks, and other vehicles
        • Testing fire hydrants
        • Keeping swimming pools full
        • Only serving water upon request in restaurants
        • Washing dishes
        • Not flushing yellow toilet water
        • Bathing
        • Washing clothes
      • Would it be effective to implement a pricing structure for water that charged users more money as they moved into higher categories of water use?
      • Would interrupting water delivery service for some number of hours per day or on specific days of the week discourage water use?
      • Would it be beneficial to offer tax rebates to people who would remove water-dependent landscaping and replace it with other materials.
    • How would your community enforce the water use rules once they were set? Would you authorize local police to give citations to people for watering their lawns or washing their cars? Would you reward people for turning their neighbors in for unauthorized water use?
    • Explore the issues raised by your meeting in the context of your real community. If your state or county doesn't have a drought plan in place, contact your elected officials to find out how you can contribute what you've learned to help raise awareness and implement a plan.
    • You can check the Drought Planning Resources, by State site to see if your state has a current plan for dealing with drought.