Status of the national drought commission and update on the drought bill
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Status of the National Drought Commission (and update on the “Drought Bill”). Presented to the Interdepartmental Committee for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research Committee for Climate Analysis, Monitoring and Services (CCAMS) October 24, 2003. Background.

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Status of the national drought commission and update on the drought bill

Status of the National Drought Commission(and update on the “Drought Bill”)

Presented to the

Interdepartmental Committee for Meteorological Services

and Supporting Research

Committee for Climate Analysis, Monitoring and Services (CCAMS)

October 24, 2003


In 1996, the Western Governor’s Association (WGA) adopted a resolution stating “ … a comprehensive, integrated response to drought emergencies is critical … [and that] it is important to work together and cooperatively with other affected entities to plant for and implement measures that will provide relief from the current drought and prepare for future drought emergencies”.

The desire was to create a Drought Task Force charged with:

  • Coordinating the drought response needs of states by identifying potential barriers to response;

  • Working with existing state, federal, and private groups to develop criteria for assessing drought and current emergency response measures; and

  • Sharing solutions that can be implemented within other states.


In 1998, Congress passed the National Drought Policy Act, which created the National Drought Policy Commission (NDPC) to advise Congress on how to:

  • Integrate federal drought laws and programs with state, local, and tribal drought laws and programs into a comprehensive national policy to mitigate the impacts of, and response to, drought;

  • Improve public awareness of the need for drought mitigation; and

  • Achieve a coordinated approach to drought mitigation and response by governments and non-governmental entities, including academic, private, and nonprofit interests.


In May, 2000, the NDPC released its final report, Preparing for Drought in the 21st Century.

Ndpc policy statement
NDPC Policy Statement

“The Commission believes that national drought policy should use the resources of the federal government to support but not supplant nor interfere with state, tribal, regional, local and individual efforts to reduce drought impacts.”

The guiding principles of national drought policy should:

  • Favor preparedness over insurance, insurance over relief, and incentives over regulation;

  • Set research priorities based on the potential of the research results to reduce drought impacts; and

  • Coordinate the delivery of federal services through cooperation and collaboration with nonfederal entities.

Summary of recommendations
Summary of Recommendations

Congress should pass a National Drought Preparedness Act to establish a nonfederal/federal partnership through a National Drought Council (NDC).

The primary function of the NDC is to ensure that the goals of national drought policy are achieved:

1) Incorporate planning, implementation of plans and proactive mitigation measures, risk management, resource stewardship, environmental considerations, and public education as the key elements of effective national drought policy;

2) Improve collaboration among scientists and managers to enhance the effectiveness of observation networks, monitoring, prediction, information delivery, and applied research and to foster public understanding of and preparedness for drought;

3) Develop and incorporate comprehensive insurance and financial strategies into drought preparedness plans;

4) Maintain a safety net of emergency relief that emphasizes sound stewardship of natural resources and self-help; and

5) Coordinate drought programs and response effectively, efficiently, and in a customer-oriented manner.

Specific recommendations under goal 2
Specific Recommendations Under Goal 2

The President should appropriately direct and Congress, as necessary, should authorize and fund the following:

2.1 A viable plan to maintain, modernize, expand, and coordinate a system of observation networks that meets the needs of the public at large;

2.2 Continuation of the U.S. Drought Monitor and exploration of opportunities for its improvement and expansion;

2.3 Continuation of Drought Predictions/Outlooks and development of techniques to improve their accuracy and frequency;

2.4 A comprehensive information gateway to provide users with free and open access to relevant information;

2.5 An effective drought information delivery system to communicate drought conditions and impact to key decision makers;

2.6 Expansion of technology transfer of water conservation strategies innovative water supply techniques;

2.7 Existing and future drought-related research; and

2.8 Completion of the soil survey on all lands, with special emphasis on tribal lands.

The interim national drought council
The Interim National Drought Council

In July, 2000, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by various federal and nonfederal entities to facilitate cooperation and coordination in those areas designated by the NDPC in its statement of goals.

That MOU established an Interim National Drought Council (INDC) to work on the resolution of drought related issues and pursue long-term drought preparedness and mitigation activities until Congress authorizes a permanent Council.

Active Participants include:

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

  • U.S. Geological Service (USGS)

  • U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)

  • The National Weather Service (NWS)

  • The National Climate Data Center (NCDC)

  • The Regional Climate Centers (RCCs)

  • The National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC)

The national drought preparedness act 2003
The National Drought Preparedness Act (2003)

On July 24, 2003, legislation (S 1454; HR 2871) was introduced “to establish a permanent National Drought Council within the Department of Agriculture, to improve national drought preparedness, mitigation and response efforts, and for other purposes”.

Duties of the council would include:

  • Development of a comprehensive National Drought Policy Action Plan;

  • Evaluate and comment on existing Federal drought-related programs;

  • Coordinate and prioritize activities to create a National Integrated Drought Monitoring System;

  • Encourage and facilitate development of drought preparedness plans;

  • Make related information available to the public.

The national drought preparedness act 20031
The National Drought Preparedness Act (2003)

The Secretary of Agriculture would be the federal co-chair of the Council, with a non-federal co-chair appointed by a commission made up of Government and non-Government officials to include:

  • Secretaries of Commerce, Army, and Interior;

  • Director of FEMA and Administrator of EPA;

  • 4 State governors (representing “geographic diversity of United States”);

  • 1 member selected in coordination with the National Association of Counties;

  • 1 member selected in coordination with the National Association of Conservation Districts.

The national drought preparedness act 20032
The National Drought Preparedness Act (2003)

Key agency roles and responsibilities are as follows:

The Department of Commerce:

  • Lead agency for implementation of “National Integrated Drought System”

    The Departments of the Army and Interior:

  • Develop guidelines for administering a national program to provide technical and financial assistance to States, Indian tribes, local governments, watershed groups, and critical service providers for the development, maintenance, and implementation of drought preparedness plans.

    The Department of Agriculture:

  • Lead agency for administering drought assistance fund.

The national drought preparedness act 20033
The National Drought Preparedness Act (2003)

The Drought Assistance Fund shall be used to pay the costs of:

  • Providing technical and financial assistance for development and implementation of drought preparedness plans;

  • Providing the costs of mitigating the overall risk and impacts of drought;

  • Assisting in the development of mitigation measures to address environmental, economic, human health, and safety issues related to drought;

  • Expanding technology transfer of drought and water conservation strategies and innovative water supply techniques;

  • Developing post-drought evaluations and recommendations; and

  • Supplementing costs of implementing National Drought Information system.

    Total budget (current version): $2M / year (FY 2004 through 2011)

National integrated drought information system
National Integrated Drought Information System

The role of the National Integrated Drought Information System is to provide information and decision support tools for proactive planning to develop strategies that help to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of drought and improve decision making:

  • Drought information that addresses the needs of individual sectors (water supply, energy, agricultural, wildfire management);

  • Drought information at needed spatial resolutions (e.g., regional, state, river basin, etc.) while accurately representing the uncertainties and limitations of the science and data;

  • Set priorities for investing in types of drought information based on customer defined needs rather than individual federal, state, or local agency budget agendas;

  • Different types of information: - drought monitoring to document evolving conditions (precipitation, soil moisture, snowpack, streamflow) - drought explanations linking present and past conditions to underlying causes - drought outlooks of expected duration and severity;

  • Coordinated access to drought information distributed among federal, state, and other entities.

National integrated drought information system1
National Integrated Drought Information System

On October 15-16, 2003, the WGA hosted a meeting of the National Integrated Drought Monitoring Network team.

Key findings / recommendations:

  • The modernized COOP network remains the best template for an integrated climate monitoring system;

  • Notable gaps in data include soil moisture measurements, an important element of COOP modernization (proposed to be funded by USDA);

  • Spatial and temporal requirements for monitoring drought exist locally but are insufficient at the national level;

  • Products should be driven by public need; however, care needs to be taken to educate the public in product feasibility and attainable skill (especially in forecasting).