Improving Resilience to Drought in Alberta Through Simulation

Drought is a natural, recurrent phenomenon in Alberta. Recent studies have shown that we can
expect extended droughts to become more frequent in the future, and a number of initiatives are
underway in the province to improve drought preparedness. The Government of Alberta (GoA)
is developing a Provincial Drought Response Plan that will outline management and
communication actions in times of drought. At the same time, the Alberta Water Council (AWC)
is working on building a guide to assist Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACs) as
they engage municipalities to better prepare for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from multi-year
droughts. This guide is expected to be completed by fall 2019 and aims to synthesize
available information about drought management, tools, and resources in the province. Finally,
the Miistakis Institute is also working with a pilot community to develop a process for drought
mitigation planning; this project is expected to conclude by June 2019.

Drought is often referred to as a creeping phenomenon because it evolves slowly, and its
beginning and end tend to be unclear. Managing drought involves complex monitoring, decision making, and communication before, during and after a drought to mitigate the impacts and
respond accordingly, but these are often difficult to plan thoroughly without experiencing a
drought. Simulation exercises provide an opportunity to work through a scenario that closely
mimics a real-life event, and they can be a powerful tool to test management structure and
communication strategies. The Invitational Drought Tournament developed by Agriculture and
Agri-Food Canada provides one example of a simulation tool that uses game theory to explore
and test drought preparedness.

This project proposes to build on the work being conducted by the AWC, the GoA, and the
Miistakis Institute to develop a simulation that will allow communities to test in a workshop
environment proposed drought management structure, communications channels, tools, and
resources. Throughout the exercise the participants will have to react accordingly, in line with
draft plans and resources, highlighting potential issues with implementation. The exercise will
lead participants through the initiation of drought through to high pressure and stress on their
system, and then into recovery and evaluation phases. The participants will be reflective of the
different roles across communities, stakeholders, and government agencies.