The California Drought: Coping Responses and Resilience Building

Building resilience to extreme events is very complex. It involves consideration of climatic and non-climatic factors, human and natural environments and their dynamics, and governance systems that include groups with wide-ranging authorities, influence and interests. In this article, we analyse the effects of the latest multi-year drought (2011–2016) in agricultural production in California; impacts on food security; and coping responses of several actors. We found that despite the drought and water shortages, California continued to be the leading state for fruit and tree nuts and that it did not affect food security. We also found that these results were strongly influenced by the numerous policy, regulatory, institutional, and management decisions taken at the local, state and federal levels, as well as to availability of groundwater, the primary drought reserve. The California case can be considered an example for the rest of the country, and the world, that extreme events require extraordinary preparedness and response measures just to cope with them, not to mention adapting to them, and that building resilience is a long-term process.

By Cecilia Tortajada, Matthew J. Kastner, Joost Buurman and Asit K. Biswas, 2017. Article published in Environmental Science & Policy, Volume 78, Pages 97–113.

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