Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on February 26, 2020
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 18, 2020
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 11, 2020


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE):

  • Supports the development of regional drought preparedness and response plans by water providers in cooperation with local, state, and federal agencies. Plans should be based on sound engineering principles and assessments and on a locally developed balance among land use, economic investment, and risk assessment.
  • Believes that the fundamental responsibility for development and implementation of such plans rests with the water supply agencies and their sponsoring government entities, with the active involvement of all interested parties and all primary and secondary impacts identified.
  • Believes that planning, implementation, and management efforts should include initiatives to enhance resiliency to increasing severity of future droughts.
  • Recommends that federal and state governments should encourage and support technical and financial assistance to water providers in the development of drought preparedness and response plans.


Drought can cause widespread and significant negative economic, social, health, and environmental impacts. All regions of the country have experienced drought. A changing climate may result in an increase in frequency, duration, and severity of drought in certain areas. Drought preparedness and response plans are required to mitigate the negative economic, social, health, and environmental impacts caused by a lack of adequate water. A coordinated, cooperative, and communicative water management strategy, that includes robust data analysis, planning and implementation will serve to mitigate these impacts.

Plans and strategies for dealing with inadequate water supplies must be developed. Drought preparedness and response plans identify the impact of water shortages on all uses, including public water supply, agriculture, industry, hydropower, navigation, water-based recreation, fish and wildlife, and water quality. Alternatives for avoiding identified impacts must be developed and evaluated. Where possible, such plans should include public outreach and education campaigns for users of public and private water systems and private well owners.

Local and regional water providers, with coordination and assistance from state and federal government agencies, should develop drought preparedness and response plans. The plans should consider practices such as water conservation programs, water use restrictions, financial incentives, water reuse, water transfers, conjunctive use, water-banking, sustainability tactics, and local sharing of supplies and facilities. Local and regional water providers are best prepared to conduct risk assessments, to develop and implement public outreach and education programs, and to seek meaningful local input and discussion.


Much has been done by civil engineers to develop and manage water supplies to reduce the vulnerability to drought. No single organization can manage water during drought solely within its purview. Only through robust data analysis, planning with implementation and a coordinated response can local entities better respond to all demands being placed on them.

ASCE Policy Statement 408
First Approved in 1993