Drought is a pervasive natural hazard, even in relatively water rich areas such as the Province of Ontario, Canada. A common response to drought in many jurisdictions has been crisis management, especially involving drought relief during or after a drought event. Proactive drought contingency planning, which takes a risk management approach to reduce vulnerability, is much more appropriate. Unfortunately, the extent to which local communities have the capacity to participate effectively in this activity is highly variable. This paper explores factors that facilitate and constrain locally led drought contingency planning and highlights several that relate to management capacity, or the ability of local actors to accomplish their objectives and participate effectively in implementing appropriate drought responses. Drought planning experiences in Australia and the United States are used to frame an evaluation of Ontario's new drought contingency planning approach. We conclude that while Ontario's approach has many desirable features (e.g. organized around watersheds; locally driven), it also has several shortcomings, relating especially to the way in which droughts are understood, coordination of roles and responsibilities and community disempowerment during severe droughts.

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