Land & Environment

Adapting to Drought: Spring Runoff Conference Explores Ways to Navigate a Dry Future

By Lael Gilbert |

This year's Spring Runoff Conference will be held March 29 on USU’s Logan campus and will combine the science of forecasting drought and its implications for federal, state and local perspectives.

As the late-winter sunshine melts the snow from slopes and sidewalks, water experts are anxious for a muddy, sloppy, very wet spring. But organizers of the Spring Runoff Conference know that even a remarkably wet season won’t mean recovery from the ongoing 20-year megadrought now occurring in the Western states.

One wet season can’t wrap up a drought, according to Hope Braithwaite and Erin Rivers, conference co-coordinators — we need to collectively square our shoulders and explore ways to adapt to a dryer environment.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Forecasting and Adapting to Drought,” the most salient water issue in Utah and the Western U.S., Braithwaite said. The Spring Runoff Conference, slated for March 29 on USU’s Logan campus, combines the science of forecasting drought and its implications with federal, state and local perspectives on how to anticipate and respond.

Presenters will explore perspectives on how long and how severe this current drought might be, impacts on water use, water quality and natural resources, and how natural resource policies and management strategies can better adapt.

Keynote addresses will be given by Glen Merrill, senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service, and Joel Lisonbee, Drought Early Warning System coordinator from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Merrill’s work focuses on advances in forecasting technologies, and Lisonbee is an expert on understanding the evolving risks of drought from a socioeconomic perspective. The conference is organized to explore and incorporate perspectives from multiple levels.

“The idea behind this event is to bring together experts from many different backgrounds,” Rivers said. “Drought affects ecological and social systems on such a deep and complex level, it really requires the whole community to understand the impacts and strategize for ways to move forward. We invite economists, hydrologists, policy makers, engineers and social scientists, and hear perspectives from managers, agricultural users and urban stakeholders.”

The USU Spring Runoff Conference is an annual forum for interdisciplinary sharing and an exchange of ideas on water-related issues in Utah and the Intermountain Region extending to all aspects of water science, ecology, policy, engineering and management. This year’s conference will be held at the Eccles Conference Center on the USU Logan campus, followed by a formal reception and poster presentations in the evening at the Logan River Golf and Country Club.


Lael Gilbert
Public Relations Specialist
Quinney College of Natural Resources


Hope Braithwaite
Professional Practice Professor for Watershed Quality
(435) 797-2580


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