Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Geography

Committee Chair

Sarah Halvorson

Commitee Members

David Shively, Gerald Mueller, Matthew McKinney


collaboration, drought, water scarcity, watershed planning


University of Montana


The purpose of this thesis is to capture experiences of past drought and concerns for future drought conditions in the Clark Fork River Basin of western Montana. These findings could be used to inform drought planning in the Clark Fork River Basin and to guide basin-wide drought planning in the American West. This thesis challenges the assumption of using drought to frame the issue of water deficiency. Deficiencies in precipitation, as a product of natural climate variability, have always existed and will always exist. Water scarcity, on the other hand, is when climate variability and human factors contribute to the lack of an acceptable quantity or quality of water to meet competing water uses. The findings of this thesis establish a narrative on how drought and water scarcity are experienced by a broad representation of individuals, water uses, and watersheds in the Clark Fork Basin of Montana. Given those findings, this thesis presents an argument for a problem-shed-wide approach to planning for water scarcity. Impacts of water scarcity may transcend hydrologic boundaries and large-scale vision is needed to guide the long-term economic, cultural, economic, and ecological vitality of western Montana. The way to achieve problem-shed planning is not from the basin down, but from the tributaries up to the Clark Fork Basin. This thesis could establish the foundation for an inclusive and public participatory process that leads to the development of a multi-tier, multi-tool framework that empowers local citizens to adapt to future water scarcity and climate variability.



© Copyright 2012 Molly Smith