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“Drought is a Relative Term:” Drought Risk Perceptions and Water Management Preferences among Diverse Community Members in Oklahoma, USA

Lazrus, Heather
Human ecology 2016 v.44 no.5 pp. 595-605
aquifers, climate, drought, drying, people, risk perception, surveys, water management, Oklahoma
Recent hydrological studies of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer in south central Oklahoma indicate the need for sustainable management of the amount of water extracted, especially in a drying climate. This study draws on the Cultural Theory of Risk to diagnose how cultural worldviews inform drought risk perceptions, which in turn guide water management preferences and ignite conflict or inspire cooperation among members of communities that rely on the aquifer. Results show that while drought risk perceptions are complex and often conflicting, community members largely agree water management is important but disagree about how and by whom. People oppose management options that threaten their worldviews or stated ideal ways of life. While surveys are useful indicators of people’s stated preferences for management approaches, a deeper analysis is required to understand what management strategies people will accept and eventually comply with.