The DROP project: The role of governance in drought adaptation

The DROP project has received European Regional Development Funding through INTERREG IVB.

The challenge

Reservoir at the base of a hilly landscape
This research has helped water managers and stakeholders in traditionally wet catchments consider the adaptation pathways for new types of extreme weather such as drought and water scarcity.

The North West European (NWE) area will increasingly face drought periods that harm agricultural production, nature and fresh water supplies. Although the problem is not always visible – and NWE often experiences periods of flooding – the threat is tangible and will worsen.

Adaptation action taken now will reduce costs in the future. The DROP Project (Benefit of governance in drought adaptation) brought together a scientific team and practitioners working in the field of drought and water scarcity, in order to assess the governance context across six catchments of NWE.

The impact

This assessment – embedded within the key project deliverable ‘the governance assessment tool’ – allowed specific regional recommendations to be made in six case study regions. Given the integrative nature of the science and practitioner components of the DROP project, and that the findings were reflective of activities and plans happening on the ground, these recommendations fed directly into policy and planning for adaptation, occurring at different institutional levels:

  • Suggesting an approach to water management in Somerset (UK) that is more inclusive of drought and water scarcity planning in the context of flooding recovery.
  • Encouraging the Flemish Environment Agency to incorporate more participatory and consultative processes within their current climate change adaptation modelling.
  • Directly influencing the adoption of water management planning for drought and water scarcity across catchment boundaries in the Netherlands (Groot Salland and Vechstromen).
  • Raising awareness of the issue of climate change impacts, including drought and water scarcity for Brittany (France).

The project highlighted the need for an approach to adaptation that includes both implicit responsibilities to protect water supply, linked to public authorities, and a wider awareness that adaptation actions should also include public and private sector interests.

It also highlighted the need to reconsider current assumptions regarding the rights and requirements of all water users, and the ways in which adaptation planning must capture the interactions between water supply and water demand solutions.

The research

The Drop project logo and European Regional Development Funding logo
The DROP project has received European Regional Development Funding through INTERREG IVB.

As a result of climate change, it is expected that extreme events influencing water management (flooding or drought) will increase. The DROP project, funded by INTERREG IVB, was designed to foreground the need for early action to promote climate change adaptation.

Leading on the Somerset case study, University of Manchester research highlighted the fragmented and contradictory nature of drought/water scarcity and flooding policy and the ways in which this may create maladaptive water management strategies.

This work links to a wider research programme undertaken by Dr Alison Browne on water demand, everyday life, and governance in the context of climate and social/technological change in the UK; alongside previous research on drought and climate change adaptation processes for urban infrastructure and agriculture in Australia.

The ‘Governance Assessment Tool’ developed through the DROP project seeks to provide clarity on the governance conditions underpinning regional drought and water scarcity adaptation, from which regional roadmaps are subsequently formulated alongside recommendations for optimisation at a variety of levels (from regional to European).

The tool reveals the ‘essence’ of the drought adaptation and governance status of six NWE regions. It is implemented through a range of documentary analyses and field interviews. Crucially, the tool does not seek to pre-select what measures are more or less apt for attaining drought resilience, rather it scrutinises the governance conditions that can stimulate or hinder the realisation of such policies and projects.


The DROP project led to several key outcomes:

  • An assessment of the ways that drought and water scarcity are governed across NWE catchments, including a sense of prioritisation amongst allied regional water management concerns.
  • A appraisal of how drought and water scarcity is included in adaptation planning for water and land management, and how coherently plans are implemented across policy boundaries with respect to key regional actors and stakeholders.
  • The comparative regional analyses in the DROP project enable a reflection upon how far North West Europe still has to go in order to enhance adaptation activities towards drought and water scarcity. The team has provided a set of recommendations to regional stakeholders, and the EU and European Environmental Agency as guidance on this matter

Key people

Dr Alison Browne (Lead: Somerset Case Study. Participant 5 other cases)

Somerset project team

Further information

The Governance Assessment Guide, Policy Brief and Regional Reports can be downloaded from the DROP website:

Blog on Somerset Case Study (policy@manchester)