Natural Hazards

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 391–411 | Cite as

Drought and institutional adaptation in the Great Plains of Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1914–1939

  • Gregory P. Marchildon
  • Suren Kulshreshtha
  • Elaine Wheaton
  • Dave Sauchyn
Original Paper


Agriculture in the southern Great Plains of Canada has been particularly vulnerable to prolonged episodes of drought. Using climate data and a precipitation minus potential evapotranspiration index, the extent of the region’s exposure to drought is examined. Between 1914 and 1917, the Dry Belt was particularly vulnerable to drought, whereas after 1928, a much larger region known as the Palliser Triangle covering most of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan was much more exposed to drought. These droughts provoked major institutional adaptation, in particular the establishment of the Special Areas Board by the Government of Alberta, and the creation of the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration by the Government of Canada. Both organizations have proved to be relatively permanent public adaptations to the natural hazard of drought in the region. Moreover, these earlier experiences with prolonged drought as well as institution-building may be of value in helping the residents of the Palliser Triangle adapt to predicted climate changes in the future as well as anticipate some of the barriers to effective institutional adaptation.


Drought Institutional adaptation Barriers to adaptation Palliser Triangle Dry Belt Saskatchewan Special Areas of Alberta Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration Precipitation minus potential evapotranspiration index Palmer Drought Severity Index 



The authors would like to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (MCRI project # 412-2003-1001 on institutional adaptation to climate change) for its financial support of this interdisciplinary initiative, as well as the two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions. The authors are also grateful to Jeremy Pittman for his extensive work on the climate moisture index maps.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gregory P. Marchildon
    • 1
  • Suren Kulshreshtha
    • 2
  • Elaine Wheaton
    • 3
  • Dave Sauchyn
    • 4
  1. 1.Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public PolicyUniversity of ReginaReginaCanada
  2. 2.Department of Agricultural EconomicsUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  3. 3.Saskatchewan Research CouncilSaskatoonCanada
  4. 4.Prairie Adaptation Research ConsortiumReginaCanada

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