Drought occurs due to a deficiency of precipitation over an extended period of time, usually a season or more. Drought can be defined in various ways:
- A meteorological drought is defined on the basis of the degree of dryness/lack of precipitation in comparison to an average amount, and the duration.
- A hydrological drought is associated with the impact of drier periods on surface and subsurface water.
- An agricultural drought links characteristics of meteorological and hydrological drought to agricultural impacts such as the variable susceptibility of crops during growth stages and soil properties.
Socio-economic definitions of drought incorporate the supply and demand of economic goods dependant on weather-related water-supply, in association with the other three definitions.
Famine is associated with drought. A famine is a widespread scarcity of food that may apply to people and animals. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Should Cape Town or the adjacent municipal districts experience an extended drought or water-shortage, agricultural production may be affected, with the limited supplies having to be shared over the whole population and thus the possibility of a famine occurring in certain areas. In order to prepare for this possible hazard it is vital that there is a strong commitment to food security, not only in the Western Cape but throughout South Africa.
A significant change in rainfall pattern, the occurrence of more frequent droughts due to climate change and significant land degradation may, over time, lead to the development of areas of desertification in the south-western Cape.
By drafting your own Family Emergency Plan and identifying all your risks, including those hazards affecting your own environment, you can make a positive contribution to preparedness.