The University’s Water Science Research Group is leading key researchers from 13 organizations in eight countries to redefine how the world should study and tackle drought. The researchers propose broadening the definition of drought to include water shortage caused and made worse — or sometimes improved — by human activity.
Drought research should no longer view water availability as a solely natural, climate-imposed phenomenon and water use as simply a socio-economic issue. It should, instead, more carefully consider the complex interactions between nature and society.
The current California drought has severely affected the state’s environment and economy. Storing water in reservoirs and extracting groundwater increase evaporation and decrease groundwater levels, making the drought worse. It demonstrates how strongly water and society are intertwined during drought periods.
Dr. Anne Van Loon said: “Society is not a passive victim of drought; it responds to water shortages and these responses again influence water levels in reservoirs, aquifers and rivers. Severe droughts in human-dominated environments, as experienced in recent years in China, Brazil and the USA, cannot be seen as purely natural hazards because human activities play a role.
“Managing drought effectively means we must acknowledge that human influence is as integral to drought as natural climate variability. This is why we’re calling for research to explicitly consider the multidirectional relationship between natural drought processes and the role of people.”–by the University of Birmingham on EurekAlert by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
NewTerrain February 15, 2016.