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Evaluation of Arizona Drought Watch: The State's Drought Impacts Reporting System
Local drought impacts information is critical for monthly drought status reports, but the lack of local-level observations limits the state’s ability to assess and mitigate drought effects. Arizona DroughtWatch (AZDW)—an online tool developed to increase and collect impact observation—has not generated sufficient interest by stakeholders. This project evaluated the development of AZDW to determine whether adequate stakeholder involvement was included in the process, and evaluate current use to determine whether revisions to the project could increase the use and usefulness of this decision-making tool.
Through the evaluation we found several weaknesses in the public-participation reporting-system model including that participation was reduced due to participants’ overcommitment and time constraints, consultation fatigue, and confusion about the value of qualitative impact reports. Based on these findings, we recommend that professional resource agency personnel provide the backbone of drought impacts monitoring to ensure that decision makers receive the high-quality, consistent information they require. Public participation in impacts monitoring efforts can also be improved using this model. Professional observers can help attract volunteers who consider access to high-quality data an incentive to visit the Arizona DroughtWatch site and who may be more likely to participate in impacts monitoring if they see examples of how the information is being used by decision-makers.