Climatic Change

, Volume 118, Issue 2, pp 291–306 | Cite as

The role of drought preparedness in building and mobilizing adaptive capacity in states and their community water systems



The likely intensification of extreme droughts from climate change in many regions across the United States has increased interest amongst researchers and water managers to understand not only the magnitude of drought impacts and their consequences on water resources, but also what they can do to prevent, respond to, and adapt to these impacts. Building and mobilizing ‘adaptive capacity’ can help in this pursuit. Researchers anticipate that drought preparedness measures will increase adaptive capacity, but there has been minimal testing of this and other assumptions about the governance and institutional determinants of adaptive capacity. This paper draws from recent extreme droughts in Arizona and Georgia to empirically assess adaptive capacity across spatial and temporal scales. It combines quantitative and qualitative methodologies to identify a handful of heuristics for increasing adaptive capacity of water management to extreme droughts and climate change, and also highlights potential tradeoffs in building and mobilizing adaptive capacity across space and time.


Adaptive Capacity Standardize Precipitation Index Extreme Drought Integrate Water Resource Management Potential Tradeoff 



Adaptive management


Arizona State Drought Preparedness Plan


Climate Assessment for the Southwest


Community water system


Drought Response Committee


Event history calendar


Environmental Protection Division


Georgia Drought Management Plan


Interagency Coordinating Group


Integrated resources planning


Integrated water resources management


Local Drought Impact Group


Life history calendar


Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District


Monitoring Technical Committee


Non-governmental organization


Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments


Southeast Climate Consortium


Standardized Precipitation Index


Salt River Project


United States



Maria Carmen Lemos, Richard Moss, and Ariane de Bremond significantly helped guide this paper to completion. Rosina Bierbaum, Dan Brown, Steve Wright, and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. Christine Kirchhoff played an integral role in developing survey instruments associated with portions of this research. Finally, the author is indebted to the Dan David Foundation Fellowship and the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment and Rackham Graduate School for financial support, as well as the numerous water managers and other participants who donated their time to make this research possible.

Supplementary material

10584_2012_657_MOESM1_ESM.docx (379 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 379 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.2011–2012 AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)WashingtonUSA

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