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Courtesy APA

Guide promotes planning

to grow healthy communities

Released earlier this month, the Healthy Communities Policy Guide by the American Planning Association promotes planning — for everything from transportation to natural hazards — all with this idea in mind: Address public health impacts of communities as was historically done.

The guide starts with the history of planning and policy, which was based in the urbanization of the late 19th century and a need to prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases. In the decades after, planners diverged, some focusing on managing land use and infrastructure and others community health. The guidebook argues planning needs to get back to its roots when it tackled both simultaneously.

“The bottom line for planners is to understand and affirm that how a community is planned and designed has a direct effect on the health of its residents,” the guide states. “It is also critical for planners to use this understanding, and the guide generally, as the standard for creation of good public policy.”

Drought, for example, can affect infrastructure, water quality, physical and mental health, in addition to the more commonly thought about impacts on agriculture, the economy and water availability.

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On-demand webinars offer expertise on drought

Curious about how drought may affect invasive species? How about what researchers and resource managers are doing to get a measure of drought effects on infrastructure?

The Webinar Portal for Forestry and Natural Resources offers more than 650 webinars on topics ranging from forestry to conservation, bioenergy to natural resources. More than 25 webinars deal specifically with drought, including “Effects of Drought on Recreation and Wilderness” and “Management of Disturbances for Wildlife."

The webinar portal is a service of the Southern Regional Extension Forestry Office; North Carolina State University's Extension Forest Resources; Texas AgriLife Extension Service; other participating land-grant universities; the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; the USDA Forest Service; and the USDA Northeast Climate Hub.

With growing season just ahead, don’t forget to plan for drought

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A prolonged drought, or even one that comes at the wrong time in the growing season, can reduce crop or forage growth and result in losses.

It’s why the Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University dedicates a page to drought preparedness, planning and resources for ag producers.

“Weakened plants are also more susceptible to disease and insects,” they write. “Drought conditions can also increase the level of wind erosion of top soil and increase the risk of fires. Planning ahead can help protect your crops during drought situations.”

Resources include key websites, such as the National Integrated Drought Information System and the USDA Drought Resources page, but it also points to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center’s drought outlook and to university resources on alternative crops to plant during drought.

Cape Town facing water showdown

Day Zero is a very real possibility in Cape Town, South Africa. Without rain or more restrictive water measures, the city will run out of water April 22, just three months from now.

After three consecutive years of drought, the city’s water supply, stored in dams and sourced by rainfall, fell below 30 percent after the new year, according to Reuters news service. The last 10 percent is considered undrinkable. When the water level in the dams reaches 13.5 percent, residents will have to line up for water.

"There is a real risk that residents will have to line up," councilor Xanthea Limberg, Cape Town's mayoral committee member for water, told Reuters in the article released Jan. 16.

Still, residents and businesses are taking steps to prevent Day Zero from arriving, and “authorities want to reduce the city’s consumption to 500 million liters a day, half the amount used two years ago,” Reuters reported.

The Drought Risk Management Resource Center conducts and applies research to improve drought resilience across the United States. It is a partnership between the National Integrated Drought Information System and the National Drought Mitigation Center, based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. NIDIS supports the DRMRC through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sectoral Applications Research Program.
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