Disaster by Drought

Cal Poly and United Nations University Resilience Summit: Disaster by Drought aims to bring together leading academic scientists and researchers to create effective resilience strategies in all aspects of agriculture, biology, sociology, economics, and environment. In addition to panel discussions with preeminent resilience researchers, the summit will include Learn By Doing field trips, workshops, and poster sessions addressing efforts to mitigate the worse drought California has experienced in over 1,200 years.

Santa Margarita Lake - a California resevoir that is experience record low water levels
Santa Margarita Lake is a reservoir that provides water to communities on California's central coast, but currently holds a fraction of its usual water supply due to California's most recent drought. | Photo: Linda Tanner, Flickr

Summit Publications


“We just drew a new well two weeks ago. I'm watching a rig at a neighbor's place now ... The problem is bad and progressively getting worse."
—Sue Luft (Luft Vineyards Paso Robles, September 2014)

The current drought, the worst in recorded history, is fundamentally shaping the lives of Californians. A 2010 report for San Luis Obispo County found that the area’s temperatures will rise 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit by mid 21st century, and a further 4-6 degrees by 2075. All recent climate models forecast that San Luis Obispo County will be significantly hotter and drier toward the end of the century (Koopman, Meis, and 
Corbett 2010: 13). From agriculture to business to engineering, citizens are attempting to address the negative impacts of the drought on personal, local, and statewide levels. 

Cal Poly and the United Nations University (UNU) are part of this effort; with this Drought Resilience summit, we are working together to find innovative resilience strategies for the state of California. Approximately 20 international scholars are participated in workshops, Learn by Doing field trips, panel discussions, and student-led events.

The Disaster by Drought Summit was held Oct. 4-9, 2015 at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

The summit focused on four key questions:

  • What are the positive and negative social implications of drought on livelihoods in California?
  • What strategies at the local and state levels can help build livelihood resilience in response to drought and future changes to climate, in spite of high uncertainty?
  • How do value systems and ideologies create barriers, and opportunities for change?
  • And what lessons of drought resilience successes and failures can be utilized in other contexts?

With the combined efforts of UNU scholars, local community members, Cal Poly faculty and students, we believe we can create and implement positive change in fighting the drought.

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