Dealing with Drought

The World Meteorological Organization and Global Water Partnership released "Three Pillars of Integrated Drought Management" guidelines for experts and global leaders for managing drought recovery and preparation. While these are intended to be used on a grand, community-wide scale, they are also relevant for the small to a large-time farmer looking to recover from crisis, update systems, and prepare for the future.

Monitoring and Early Warning

While news of ongoing and increasing drought is almost impossible to avoid, general awareness is only the first step in developing a comprehensive response. Improved monitoring technology can give landowners detailed data gathered from fields, irrigation systems, and local weather systems and conditions. These advanced measurements can illuminate patterns that provide valuable insights and early warnings. Examination of past obstacles and challenges can help farmers develop new strategies to mitigate further risk. Knowing where the water is coming from and how regional restrictions may impact future access is a central tenet to monitoring. An ear to the ground when it comes to future conditions and emerging opportunities will be an excellent guide for adaptation.

Vulnerability and Impact Assessment

Whether from individual measurements or external records, historical data can be useful in deciding how to react in the future. A thorough understanding of specifics, like irrigation efficiency, soil quality, crop durability, equipment status, and more, will identify which improvements will make the most significant impact. It may be necessary to do some research into local funding for updates and restorations. As the world turns its head towards the devastating global effects of farmers without enough water, more grants and other forms of assistance will almost certainly continue to be available.

Drought Mitigation, Preparedness, and Response

Once an early monitoring system has been established, the data analyzed, and critical improvements identified, it's time to act. Naturally, the immediate response will depend on current conditions. Almond farmers in drought-ridden California faced harsh criticism after the public learned that entire fields of almond trees were torn up only to see new ones being planted in nearby fields. However, young almond trees are less thirsty than their elders, and older trees spend only a few years at max production. As water stores disappeared, these farmers had decided to sacrifice their doomed earlier investment and prepare for a future when water would, hopefully, be more abundant. While time will tell about their success, these attempts to look ahead while managing the present are the best forms of response the modern farmer can take.


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