Human Ecology

, Volume 44, Issue 5, pp 595–605 | Cite as

“Drought is a Relative Term:” Drought Risk Perceptions and Water Management Preferences among Diverse Community Members in Oklahoma, USA

  • Heather Lazrus


Recent hydrological studies of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer in south central Oklahoma indicate the need for sustainable management of the amount of water extracted, especially in a drying climate. This study draws on the Cultural Theory of Risk to diagnose how cultural worldviews inform drought risk perceptions, which in turn guide water management preferences and ignite conflict or inspire cooperation among members of communities that rely on the aquifer. Results show that while drought risk perceptions are complex and often conflicting, community members largely agree water management is important but disagree about how and by whom. People oppose management options that threaten their worldviews or stated ideal ways of life. While surveys are useful indicators of people’s stated preferences for management approaches, a deeper analysis is required to understand what management strategies people will accept and eventually comply with.


Drought Risk perception Cultural theory of risk Water management Climate change Oklahoma USA 



Thank you to community members in the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer area and to Julie Demuth, Shannon McNeeley, Rebecca Morss, Erin Towler, and Debasish PaiMazumder, and Kevin Sampson. This study was funded by award #NA11OAR4310205 from the Sectoral Application Research Program of the NOAA Climate Program Office, with additional support from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). NCAR is sponsored by the National Science.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


This study was funded by the Sectoral Application Research Program of the NOAA Climate Program Office (grant number NA11OAR4310205).

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Center for Atmospheric ResearchBoulderUSA

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