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 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 2020.

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.

Terms of Reference was approved by the board in February 2020. For more information on this project, please contact Project Managers Katie Duffett (kduffett@awc-casa.ca) or Lauren Hall (lhall@awc-casa.ca