Environmental Hydrology Summary

Water Freedom System

Survive Global Water Shortages

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Drought is a complex, recurrent, and insidious natural hazard that has historically resulted in significant impacts in the Great Plains. Its impacts are far-reaching and may linger for months or even years beyond the termination of the event. The economic, social, and environmental impacts of drought result from complex interactions between physical and social systems, and they are difficult to quantify. Scientists and policymakers must understand the characteristics of drought and appreciate the magnitude and complexity of impacts in order for viable assessment and response strategies to be established. The aim of these strategies is to reduce societal vulnerability to periods of water shortages.

Drought inflicts considerable pain and hardship on society. The impacts of contemporary droughts in the Great Plains have demonstrated this fact repeatedly over the past several decades. Drought illustrates, in innumerable ways, the vulnerability of economic, social, political, and environmental systems to a variable climate. It also illustrates the dependencies that exist between systems, reinforcing the need for improved coordination within and between levels of government.

Extended periods of normal or benign weather conceal the vulnerability of societies to climate variability, but drought exposes these sensitivities. Projected changes in climate because of increased concentrations of carbon dioxide and other atmospheric trace gases suggest a possible increase in the frequency and intensity of severe drought in the Great Plains region. In a region where the incidence of drought is already high, any increase in drought frequency will place even greater pressure on the region's already limited water supplies. It is critical for us to assess our exposure and vulnerabilities to drought and take the actions necessary to reduce risk through enhanced mitigation and preparedness.

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