Drought Mitigation Trade-offs

Part A. Reducing the Impact of Drought

Grand Coulee Dam and reservoir in central Washington.

The word mitigate means making something less painful, severe, or serious. Thus, drought mitigation strategies are things that can be done to lessen the force or intensity of dry periods. Mitigation strategies aren't foolproof though, and they're not free either...

Some drought mitigation strategies, such as building dams, alter the landscape forever. Others require human behavior to change. Many drought mitigation strategies are expensive, and taxpayers are the ones who pay the bill for their implementation. It's important that citizens can judge the costs and benefits of different drought mitigation strategies so they can support responsible planning for protection from drought.

Don't Waste Water

Mitigation strategies

The most obvious mitigation strategy is to conserve the water supplies that already exist. Whenever a water shortage or drought threatens an area, water resource managers do all they can to convince water users to change wasteful habits and develop an attitude of appreciation for every drop of this precious resource.

Beyond conservation, a range of technology-enhanced drought mitigation strategies exist. One strategy is to hold surface water in reservoirs until it is needed. Another strategy is to use new farming practices that require less water. Third, some people suggest that we can avoid drought with cloud seedingsprinkling small particles into clouds in order to make it rain. Finally, some groups want to mitigate drought by investing in research and technology that would make desalinization of seawater economically feasible.

Research and report

You and your classmates will explore one or more of these technologies and prepare short reports describing the costs and benefits of each strategy for your location. The different strategies will make more sense in some locations than in others, so be sure that your report is customized for your own location. Once you complete your research, you can send your reports to the water resource managers of your town, city, county, or state to make them aware of your findings.

As individuals or in small groups, investigate and evaluate one of the four mitigation strategies listed below. Your teacher may assign you to explore a specific one so that all of the strategies are covered by someone in your class.

  • Start researching your assigned mitigation strategy using the links below.
  • Learn how your drought mitigation technology works. List and describe the likely costs as well as the benefits of implementing that strategy in your area. Consider costs and benefits in economic, environmental, and social realms.
  • Do the suggested hands-on activity to make a physical model of how the mitigation strategy works.
  • After your research, prepare a 5-7 slide PowerPoint file or a similar presentation to share your findings.
  • Suggested timeline: 1 day for research, 1 day to complete the hands-on activity, 1 day to prepare and practice your presentation, and 1 day to share presentations with the entire class.

Drought mitigation strategies to explore