CRWUA Meetings, Las Vegas — A water journalist on a panel about ‘communicating the drought’ observed that there’s a problem with the way most water agencies get the word out about drought.
It’s that they use the word ‘drought.’
“I talked recently with some federal officials,” said John Fleck, a former water-news reporter and author of a popular, new book on water in the Southwestern U.S.
“I tried to get them to not to use the word ‘drought.’”
The problem, Fleck explained, is that the word ‘drought’ creates the risk that people may feel powerless in the face of drought.
That, he said, “is problematic,” especially for water officials such as those at these CRWUA meetings.
Fleck, a former journalist is a popular news person at the CRWUA meetings precisely because his views about water in the West are anchored in an optimistic expectation of resolving drought issues.
Even Fleck succumbs to pessimism at times, however.
“I was at Lake Mead this morning,” he said. “I Tweeted out that Lake Mead was ‘kind of empty.’
“I immediately got a response from a water professional: “You could have said, ‘kind of full.’
Unfortunately, speaking positively and avoiding the word ‘drought’ is a challenge for a more complex reason than people may realize, he said:
“We don’t have a word for the opposite of drought. Anyone ever use the word ‘pluvial?’ it’s an extended period of excess precipitation.
“When was the last time you heard someone say that?”