Hazards Planning Center

Symposium on Planning for Drought Mitigation

On July 26-27, 2012, amid one of the nation's worst droughts in recent memory, the American Planning Association hosted a scoping symposium in its Chicago office to explore the ways in which planning can address drought mitigation.

Invited participants focused on helping APA to define the appropriate audiences and central issues for the project, delineate the guiding principles in planning for drought resilience, refine the outline for the PAS Report, and identify criteria for best practices and potential case examples to study.

Download the full symposium summary (pdf)

Symposium Highlights

Over the course of the symposium, participants highlighted the importance of reaching beyond the planning community and engaging a wide range of stakeholders in planning for drought resilience. They began by attempting to define what makes a community drought resilient.

Defining the Audience

During the first discussion of symposium, participants suggested the following potential audiences for the PAS report:

  • Local planners (urban and rural)
  • Local water agency and utilities
  • Public health officials
  • Emergency management community

Impacts of Drought

During the next discussion of the symposium, participants offered the following impacts as those that should be addressed by the project and final report:

  • Water supply
  • Increased wildfire
  • Public health
  • Environment
  • Economic losses
  • Water quality
  • Recreation and parks
  • Tourism
  • Agriculture
  • Energy
  • Water infrastructure

Action Steps

Next, participants discussed proactive planning actions to mitigate impacts:

  • Set regulations and policies to maintain water supply
  • Incorporate drought with wildfire protection planning
  • Utilize public health resources
  • Identify potential economic impact
  • Water quality management
  • Manage water infrastructure
  • Assess and analyze energy impacts

Guiding Principles

After identifying impacts and action steps, participants discussed the following as guiding principles for the final report:

  • Risk assessment
  • Monitoring and information system
  • Integration of drought into planning process
  • Inclusionary stakeholder involvement
  • Collaborative framework
  • Resilience, variability, and sustainability
  • Plan quality (module and stand alone)

Structure of the Report

Next, participants offered the following reactions to the draft outline for the final report:

  • Include cross-disciplinary glossary.
  • See notes for more bullet points
  • Make it clear that drought is complex yet manageable
  • Cover the dimensions of resiliency and variability
  • Identify stakeholders
  • Discuss data management and other tools available

Best Practices Examples

In the final discussion of the symposium, participants suggested the following ideas, principles and approaches that should be highlighted by specific case examples:

  • Indianapolis, Indiana (integrated drought as component to other plans)
  • Phoenix, Arizona (statistical analysis scenarios in general plan; conjunctive management)
  • Denver, Colorado (good drought plan but may not be well integrated)
  • San Antonio, Texas (regional water alliance)
  • Athens-Clarke, Georgia (documented process of Water Conservation Committee; county commissioner and mayor as champions)
  • Colorado State
  • Archuleta, Colorado (state vulnerability index; hazard mitigation)
  • City of Boulder, Colorado (integrated water supply plan; used historical record to develop plan)
  • Potomac Delaware River Basin Commission Director Joe Bauchman (drought simulation planning; champion)
  • Tampa Bay Water Utility, Tampa Bay, Florida (example of conjunctive use of multiple water sources including seawater desalination)
  • California Best Practices (Redwood City, West Riverside County, Santa Cruz)
  • Hualapai, Arizona (tribal example; tourism and recreation)
  • Cheyenne River / Sioux
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River National Quality Assessment Program
  • Colorado State (outreach best practices; water conservation board)
  • California State (logos, mascots, open public messages)
  • Decatur, Illinois (identified triggers)
  • Las Vegas, Nevada (landscaping programs)
  • Rhode Island Water Management Plan (references drought)
  • International Examples (Murray Island Basin, Australia)

Symposium Participants

APA and FEMA invited seven professionals, from various professional backgrounds, with extensive experience in drought planning and water management issues to participate in the scoping symposium.

Symposium Experts


Bill Barker, AICP, is a senior management analyst in the City of San Antonio's Office of Environmental Policy, which is responsible for the development and implementation of the City's sustainability program called Mission Verde. Barker joined the city in May 2009 after serving as the executive director of Solar San Antonio. He came to San Antonio in 1997 to be the director of planning for VIA Metropolitan Transit. 


Bill Barker, AICP

Jeff Brislawn is the hazard mitigation lead in AMEC's Hazard Mitigation and Emergency Management Program and has more than 20 years of experience in emergency management, GIS, and hazard mitigation planning work for state and local governments. With AMEC Brislawn has been the project manager on 18 Disaster Mitigation Act (DMA) compliant local and state multi-hazard mitigation plans.


Jeff Brislawn

Rand Frahm, AICP, is a water resource professional with expertise in water supply planning, water conservation and water and growth policy. He currently serves as the planning manager for the Southwest Florida Water Management District in Brooksville, Florida where he has been employed for over 25 years. Frahm has authored technical reports and made important contributions to numerous water resource planning initiatives for the 16-county west-central Florida area.


Rand Frahm, AICP

Marilyn Hall, AICP, has 15 years of professional experience doing outreach and public involvement, drought response, program management, environmental program development, comprehensive and environmental planning, watershed planning, ordinance writing, demographic analysis, and planning for public utilities. Currently she is the water conservation coordinator for the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.


Marilyn Hall, AICP

Jim Holway, FAICP, directs Western Lands and Communities, the Sonoran Institute's Joint Venture with the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy. This program supports research, tool development, demonstration projects, education and publications focused on managing growth, sustaining regions, protecting resources and empowering communities throughout the intermountain west.


Jim Holway, FAICP

Marsha Prillwitz retired as chief of the California Department of Water Resources' Office of Water Use Efficiency in 2004. Her career for the past 25 years has focused on the promotion of sustainable water management practices with emphasis on drought preparedness and landscape water conservation. She continues to support efforts that foster the convergence of water management and land use planning.


Marsha Prillwitz
Mark Shafer is director of climate services with the Oklahoma Climatological Survey (OCS) and co-director of the Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP). He routinely interacts with state and local decision makers to tailor weather and climate information to address specific needs. His research interests focus upon communication between the scientific community and policy makers, particularly in managing societal response to extreme events. Mark Shafer

National Drought Mitigation Center


Cody Knutson is a research associate professor with the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. At the NDMC, he is the leader of the Planning and Social Science Program Area. Since 1997, his primary role has been helping individuals, communities, tribes, states, and national governments prepare for and respond to drought.


Cody Knutson

Kelly Helm Smith was one of the original employees of the National Drought Mitigation Center when it was established in 1995, contributing experience in journalism, public relations, and environmental communication. She helped launch the center's original award-winning website back when the web was new, and helped make the case for establishing the U.S. Drought Monitor.


Kelly Helm Smith

Mark Svoboda, climatologist, is the executive director for the National Drought Mitigation Center, which is based in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has been with the NDMC since it was established in 1995, and has been one of the U.S. Drought Monitor authors since it was established in 1999. Svoboda serves on the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) Implementation Team and co-chairs the NIDIS Portal Development Team.

Mark Svoboda

National Integrated Drought Information System

Roger S. Pulwarty is the director of the US National Integrated Drought Information System at NOAA in Boulder, Colorado. His research focuses on climate variability and change, social and environmental vulnerability, and on developing climate information services in the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean. He is one of the winners of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Roger S. Pulwarty

APA Team

Bill Klein, AICP
Erin Musiol, AICP
Anna Ricklin
Suzanne Rynne, AICP
Jim Schwab, AICP