Session 6.5 Strategies for Mitigating Drought: An Evaluation of State and Local Drought Triggers

Wednesday, 22 June 2005: 3:00 PM
North & Center Ballroom (Hilton DeSoto)
Hope P. Mizzell, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Columbia, SC; and J. Caldwell and G. Carbone

Presentation PDF (60.5 kB)

South Carolina began examining drought occurrence and impacts in 1978. Since then, several plans and laws have been established to monitor, manage, and conserve the State's water resources. South Carolina recognized the need to formalize the state's drought plan by passing legislation (South Carolina Drought Response Act) in 1985, which was amended in 2000. The state's drought planning continues to evolve, influenced by national, state, and local trends in climate and politics. As South Carolina emerged from the most recent multi-year drought ending in 2002, it became clear that the sustainability of the state's water resources could no longer be taken for granted. This extreme event became a necessary “springboard” to elevate the public's perception and capture decision makers' attention to the challenges associated with managing South Carolina's water resources.

Future increases in water demand could make the state more vulnerable to economic, social, and environmental consequences of drought, like the major event of 1998-2002. This reinforces the need for improved coordination and planning within and between levels of government and water users. Therefore, South Carolina's drought response program emphasizes integrated planning and response. It includes a committee composed of local and state representatives who are responsible for evaluating drought conditions to determine if action beyond the scope of local response is needed. At the local level, water users, such as water systems, industries, and power generation facilities, are responsible for maintaining drought management plans and response policies.

The foundation of local drought management plans and policies are system specific drought triggers, identification of alternative water supplies, and public education. A unique component of each plan is the designation of drought triggers specific to each system that can be used separate from, or in conjunction with, drought triggers at the state level. System-specific drought triggers include information such as reservoir levels, number of days of supply remaining, and average daily use while the State uses more traditional indices such as the Palmer Drought Severity Index and Standard Precipitation Index for state level declarations. This project will demonstrate the effectiveness of using the integrated planning approach by evaluating drought strength, frequency, the mean and maximum duration of droughts of a given intensity, and the trend in drought incidence as indicated by the local and State triggers.

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