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Understanding the complex impacts of drought: A key to enhancing drought mitigation and preparedness


Recent droughts in the United States have highlighted the nation’s current and increasing vulnerability to this natural hazard. Drought-related impacts are also becoming more complex, as illustrated by the rapidly rising impacts in sectors such as recreation and tourism, energy, and transportation. Environmental and social consequences are also of increasing importance. Conflicts between water users and disputes between political entities on transboundary water issues are a reflection of the need for improved documentation of the consequences of extended periods of water shortage. Unfortunately, no national drought impact database exists and drought impact statistics are not routinely compiled at the state, regional, or national level. Without this information, it is an arduous task to convince policy and other decision makers of the need for additional investments in drought monitoring and prediction, mitigation, and preparedness. The National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is addressing this problem by creating a web-based Drought Impact Reporter (DIR) that has the following primary functions: (1) to create a database archive of drought impacts information; (2) to provide an interactive map delivery system that is efficient and user-oriented; (3) to build links with governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, university research groups and extension programs, and others, including the public, in order to provide timely impact reports to ensure a comprehensive collection of drought impacts across all potential sectors and scales; and (4) to foster a continual process of user feedback, evaluation, assessment, and dissemination of drought impacts. The Drought Impact Reporter was launched in July 2005 and is available on the NDMC’s web site (

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Correspondence to Donald A. Wilhite.

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A contribution of the University of Nebraska Agricultural Research Division, Lincoln, NE 68583. Journal Series No. 15122.

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Wilhite, D.A., Svoboda, M.D. & Hayes, M.J. Understanding the complex impacts of drought: A key to enhancing drought mitigation and preparedness. Water Resour Manage 21, 763–774 (2007).

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