New Federal Partnership to Help Communities Prepare for Drought
As part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, the Administration recently announced an interagency National Drought Resilience Partnership to help communities better prepare for future droughts and reduce the impact of drought events on livelihoods and the economy.
About two-thirds of the continental United States was affected by drought in 2012, impacting water supply, tourism, transportation, and near-shore fisheries, with an estimated $30 billion in losses to the agriculture sector alone, and an additional $1 billion in losses from wildfires. Responding to requests from communities, businesses, farmers, and ranchers, the National Drought Resilience Partnership will make it easier to access Federal drought resources, and will help link information such as monitoring, forecasts, outlooks, and early warnings with longer-term drought resilience strategies in critical sectors such as agriculture, municipal water systems, energy, recreation, tourism, and manufacturing.
Spearheaded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), members of the National Drought Resilience Partnership will coordinate the delivery of Federal Government policies, programs, information, and tools designed to help communities plan for and respond to drought. Other partners in this effort include the Department of the Interior, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Energy.
In its first year, the Partnership will focus on:
- Creating a new, web-based portal to ease access to Federal agency drought recovery resources
- Hosting more frequent regional drought outlook forums that provide access to experts and locally relevant information
- Supporting the coordination of a national soil moisture monitoring network to help improve monitoring and forecasting of drought conditions
- Identifying a single point of contact for the public
- In collaboration with local, state, and regional governments, undertaking a pilot project in a western area hard hit by drought to create a local-scale drought resilience plan that could be applied in other areas
“Last year, the worst drought in generations devastated farms and ranches across the nation, and the Obama Administration took every possible measure to help,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “But our work isn’t done and we can always better prepare for the future. [The new] Partnership will help rural residents, farmers, ranchers, and business owners prepare for drought events like the one we experienced in 2012.” Vilsack also noted the importance of enhancing partnerships to support drought resilience at a time when climate change is projected to increase the intensity and the number of drought events that impact agriculture.
The Partnership follows President Obama’s November 1st Executive Order, "Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change", a key step under his Climate Action Plan, which created a Task Force of state, local and tribal leaders to advise the Administration on steps the Federal Government can take to help communities increase preparedness, and committed Federal agencies to examining their programs and policies to make it easier for states and communities to build resilience against storms, droughts, and other weather extremes. The Partnership also builds on existing Federal efforts and the White House Rural Council’s work to help communities, farmers, ranchers, and producers stay resilient in the face of disaster.
For more information on drought and the National Drought Resilience Partnership, please visit www.drought.gov.