Public Law 105-99, 112 Stat. 641, provides, "Sec 4. DUTIES OF THE
COMMISSION. (b)(5) Collaborate with the Western Drought Coordination Council
and other appropriate entities in order to consider regional drought
initiatives and the application of such initiatives at the national
The Western Drought Coordination Council submitted a detailed report to
the Commission containing several recommendations. Other data was gathered
from known regional bodies and by follow up telephone contacts. The National
Drought Policy Commission (NDPC) staff compiled the results.
The NDPC reviewed eight river basin or interstate regional structures
ranging from the Upper Mississippi River Basin encompassing Minnesota,
Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, to the Interstate Council on Water Policy which
encompasses 18 states, six river commissions, five water districts, and nine
River basins (and watersheds) are useful, natural drought planning
"regions" below the national level, but greater than the state
level. Throughout the country there are existing regional (and river basin)
organizations with drought responsibilities.
Some commissions have proven that coordination and management of water
resources assets on a multijurisdictional, regional basis during drought
periods can allow a major metropolitan area to sustain itself. This
coordination can be accomplished by annual review of the plan and plan
implementation training. Other commissions encourage conservation and
end-use efficiency; use alternative methods for resolving inter/intrabasin
conflicts; and encourage joint studies to collect data and promote dialog
between different sets of water users. They often incorporate
interdisciplinary teams, interagency cooperation and public participation in
water management planning; and use incentives to conserve water such as
pricing water to reflect the costs of its use to society and the
environment. Others suggest that a national drought policy must emphasize
mitigation and risk management and promote self-reliance. They also
emphasize local implementation, innovation, and responsibility.
The Commission staff also reviewed a 1995 report prepared by the U.S.
Senate Task Force on Funding Disaster Relief, and a 1995 Corps of Engineers
report entitled "National Study of Water Management During
Drought." Inefficiencies in existing approaches and lack of holistic
management were cited as flaws by both, as well as the failure to involve
stakeholders in water management.
Strengths of the regional concept: Since drought recognizes no
human-imposed boundaries, a regional body brings a coordinated perspective
to the issues. Additionally, the regional concept allows greater focus than
one size fits all philosophy and accounts for geographical uniqueness and
anomalies. The sharing of information fosters a best practices concept among
Weaknesses of the Regional Concept: Historical disputes among
jurisdictions may prevent open and full participation. The entity requires a
central point of contact and consistent administrative staffing.
Western Drought Coordination Council (WDCC)
The WDCC recommended the following:
and the ability to obtain the requisite basic input data should be
- The activities initiated by the WDCC could be emulated in the
remainder of the country as part of a coordinated national effort. With
much of the infrastructure already begun through the WDCC's efforts, a
national oversight group could provide a clear vision, management, and
resources which would ensure success for a variety of drought-related
activities on a national level.
- The WDCC recommends that the NDPC consider linking the national
oversight group to regional groups for program delivery. Drought and
other water issues have greatly different physical characteristics,
impacts, political response mechanisms, and thus informational needs,
from region to region. These regional perspectives should utilize
existing institutions such as the Regional Climate Centers.
- It is critical to provide resources and designate a responsible agency
or group to produce national drought assessment reports. The
"Western Climate and Water Status, Quarterly Report," with its
uniquely strong dependence on snowpack and topography, should be
maintained--in service of both regional and national needs,
Basic weather, water, and climate observations are the foundation of
the monitoring and assessment activity which alerts the nation to
impending drought. It is recommended that the NDPC support funding for
maintenance and modernization of the observational networks to ensure
that the data will continue to be available into the future.
Additionally, it is particularly important that the local, state, and
tribal interests are brought into the process to provide input on both
climate/water conditions, especially on impacts, and ensure local
acceptance of the resulting assessments.
Snowpack information is extremely important in assessing drought
conditions in the West. Similarly, better and more extensive information
on snow extent and water content is needed, including via the web, for
the northern portions of the Midwestern and Eastern states.
Development of long-term soil moisture and groundwater reference
networks is recommended. Reservoir storage, streamflow, groundwater, and
soil moisture information, both current and historical, must become more
accessible, especially via the web.
The NDPC should provide specific ideas that Congress could consider in
Federal legislation to encourage the incorporation of incentives for
drought mitigation and preparedness at the local, state and regional
levels, including educational resources that promote the concepts of
drought planning. The NDPC should also provide suggestions for funding
of the activities associated with mitigation and preparedness.
The NDPC should support the establishment of a statutorily designated
lead federal agency, adequately funded, that would coordinate
communication and cooperation among the various regional groups, to
ensure an absence of duplication and the encouragement of complimentary
actions including establishment of a clearinghouse, with possible
The NDPC may consider developing a drought situation report to
determine whether the assistance programs adequately meet the needs of
those adversely impacted by droughts. By creatively using the Internet
to compile capabilities, policy makers and others would be able to
quickly assess historical information and in which areas additional
assistance is needed.
The Historical Drought Impact Survey data developed by the WDCC should
be maintained and expanded to include drought experiences from other
regions of the country. Reports should be utilized to take advantage of
prior efforts and to help identify primary drought concerns.
The Catalog of Federal Assistance Programs applies to all states
nationwide and the NDPC should make specific recommendations noting its
value and ways to ensure that the catalog be kept current as program
The WDCC was interested in utilizing media to raise awareness of
drought issues, but without a national direction, the Council was not
able to tap into national and regional media including television, large
newspapers and professional association communication vehicles. The NDPC
should utilize this opportunity to raise drought issues on a national
Additional information is available from the National Drought Policy
Commission. You can access the information at the Commission's web site:
All files can be ordered in electronic format or hard copy. Write: National
Drought Policy Commission, USDA/FSA/AO, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Mail Stop
0501, Washington, D.C. 20250-0501.
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