Tales of prolonged drought have filled recorded history. Drought was known in ancient Egypt. Examination of tree rings from petrified trees indicate drought before recorded history. Droughts have been a regular event in earth's long history. The natural events that lead up to drought are beyond man's control. Droughts have been the cause of mass migration, starvation, disease and war. Althought droughts cannot be avoided, the effects of drought can be reduced using effective mitigation strategies.
Billions of people are affected by drought conditions. Droughts can be short lived or prolonged for decades. Every continent is faced with this natural disaster. Humans have sought to find strategies to reduce the long term effects of droughts. These mitigation strategies are directed in tow directions- government funding and action and citizen education. The following is a list of proactive methods used to mitigate the effects of drought:
<<Monitoring Systems>> This is the first step for governments to oversee rainfall amounts, water usage amounts and water table levels. These measurements can be used to develop strategies to reduce the impact of drought.
<<Cloud Seeding>> This is a temporary solution. It involves the use of some type of aircraft to distribute a chemical, such as silver Iodide mixed with dry ice. The chemical and dry ice are spread through passing clouds. The key to success is the temperature of the clouds. Seeding the clouds with the chemical creates a hub around which water droplets gather creating a heavier particle. The dry ice causes a temperature drop which results in a lower saturation level. Gravity pulls the particle down to the arid regions below. The effectiveness of this strategy has been questioned in the past few decades. However, the Republic of China uses it extensively.
<<Desalination Plants>> The concept is simple. Seawater is processed to remove salt and minerals leaving suitable water for drinking and irrigation. The cost of these plants can be very expensive to build and maintain. These plants also use a great deal of energy to operate.
<<Recycling Plants>> Waste water is channeled through this plant which treats and purifies the water to be reused. In order to be effective a network of pipes is required to transport the waste water and recycled water. Again this is an expensive proposition. Unless the pumping pipes are in place are in place, the project would take decades to complete.
<<Redirecting Water>> The Romans understood this strategy thousands of years ago when they build aqueducts. These structures were able to redirect water from areas rich in water to areas in need. Other types of redirection strategies include building dams and canals or changing the direction of rivers. These are costly but offer a long-term solution.
<<Land Use Techniques>> Agriculture is the backbone of most societies. Failure of farms results in starvation and soil erosion. Education for farmers teach conservation techniques such as crop rotation, contoured plowing, terracing, and general soil conservation. These farming strategies, as well as water conservation, provide means to avert or lessen the impact of drought.
<<Rainfall Harvesting>> This is certainly not a new idea. Collecting rainwater has been a time honored means of capturing water. The problem is that it does not work well during the grips of a drought.
<<Water Restrictions>> Many governments have instituted mandated restrictions on water usage. Government regulation involve use of water for only essential purposes, limiting the time of water use and requirements to install water regulation devices. Education is vital in this strategy in order for these restrictions to be effective.
Many of the countries that are in the grips of prolonged drought are third world countries. Poverty, political corruption and illiteracy are consorts in prolonging the devastation of drought. The UN's humanitarian efforts offer short term solutions to these countries. Long term efforts will require cooperation between local governments and UN members. Droughts cannot be avoided but mitigation strategies will reduce the disastrous effects.