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Defining drought : towards a functional definition of drought for the Vechtstromen water authority

Beltman, M.R. (2019) Defining drought : towards a functional definition of drought for the Vechtstromen water authority.

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Abstract:For centuries the Dutch delta mostly had one water related problem, there was too much of it. To get rid of the water surplus the Dutch have built an ingenious system of pumps and dikes to keep their land and polders dry. But while improving and mastering this system towards perfection drought problems have intensified (Bressers et al., 2016; Tielrooij et al., 2000). This because the discharging practice was hardly limited by the drought problems that might occur on the other side of the spectrum. For long the relevance of drought was underestimated, the country was believed to be too water abundant. But as global temperatures rise and thereby the climatic extremes intensify new and more severe drought problems occur (Trenberth, 2011). This also holds for the water abundant North Western European countries like the Netherlands. This led the Dutch water managers to see that water management should focus more on balancing the water system between floods and droughts, instead of solely discharging water surpluses (Ritzema & Van loon-Steensma, 2017). Efficiently balancing wet and dry seasons requires insights in the boundary conditions, when is it too wet and when is it too dry? During the centuries of flood management, the first has been sharply defined by national law and policy. These documents present clear exceedance frequencies for land inundation and flooding. Also local politicians have a relatively clear view on when it is too wet. When it is too dry is, however, poorly defined by Dutch water management. There are many reasons why a too dry state lacks a clear definition. One reason for example is its relative novelty within the Dutch water management. There simply is less experience with drought management in the Netherlands. A second reason is the ranging perceptions on the phenomenon (Kohl & Knox, 2016). Droughts affect water users in many different ways on different moments in time. To better understand how water management should balance the wet and dry seasons, a more clear definition for a too dry state that fits a water managing perspective is thus required. Drought can be defined in two distinct ways, either as a physical or as a societal phenomenon. Physical definitions tend to define the drought intensity relative to normal water conditions. Societal definitions define the drought intensity in relation to the societal impact it causes. As regional water management is largely about enhancing society by facilitating water use, balancing floods and droughts is about weighing the impacts of floods and droughts to society. To do so, a society focussed drought definition provides most useful information. Water management is, thus, mostly in need of a drought definition that is defined from a societal impact perspective.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Waterschap Vechtstromen, Almelo, Netherlands
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:56 civil engineering, 88 social and public administration
Programme:Public Administration MSc (60020)
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