TJ8.6 Dynamics of Vulnerability in Drought Contexts: A Case Study of Pueblo, Colorado, and the Arkansas River

Wednesday, 10 January 2018: 3:00 PM
Ballroom F (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Jen Henderson, CIRES, Boulder, CO; and L. Dilling, U. Rick, R. E. Morss, and O. Wilhelmi

Drought is a slow disaster that generates long-term impacts on communities, even after a drought has ended. In their efforts to recover, many create drought plans or institute adaptability and resilience measures to reduce future risk to problems related to insufficient water or poor water quality. Implementing these plans, however, can create unintended consequences for those adjacent to or some distance from the locality. And effects can be surprising in their propagation throughout a system and in the unanticipated positive and negative effect on others. Such dynamics are especially salient in areas that are transforming from largely agricultural areas to more urban areas, and in places where there are traditionally vulnerable populations. This study draws on a series of semi-structured interviews across multiple sectors and along many points of the Arkansas River to examine one such municipality, Pueblo, Colorado. Analysis of these interviews suggests an array of unexpected vulnerabilities and resiliences arose in the context of recent droughts (e.g. 2002 and 2012), which have shaped current practices of drought preparation and mitigation. They also reveal a complex number of spatiotemporal and relational effects from actions taken during and after the drought that have had unexpected outcomes elsewhere, such as "lease and dry" practices by electricity companies that leave farms still viable. A second case is underway in Utah and will provide useful points of comparison, as well as distinctive insights into how different variables related to place and culture potentially affect the dynamics of vulnerability.
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