What Is NIDIS?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA's) National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) program was authorized by Congress in 2006 (Public Law 109–430) and reauthorized in 2014 and 2019 with an interagency mandate to coordinate and integrate drought research, building upon existing federal, tribal, state, and local partnerships in support of creating a national drought early warning information system.
NIDIS is a multi-agency partnership that coordinates drought monitoring, forecasting, planning, and information at federal, tribal, state, and local levels across the country.
The NIDIS Program Office is located at NOAA’s David Skaggs Research Center in Boulder, Colorado. The NIDIS website, Drought.gov, is managed through the National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina.
A National Drought Early Warning System
NIDIS’s mission is to improve the nation’s capacity to proactively manage drought-related risks by providing those affected with the best available information and resources to assess the potential for drought and to better prepare for, mitigate, and respond to the effects of drought.
Toward that end, NIDIS will create a drought early warning system (DEWS) for the nation.
A DEWS uses new and existing partner networks, drawing on the expertise of a wide range of federal, tribal, state, local, academic, and private-sector partners to make climate and drought science readily available, easily understandable, and usable for decision makers. This improves stakeholders’ capacity to monitor, forecast, plan for, and cope with the impacts of drought.
Developing a nationally-consistent DEWS requires more than a one-size-fits-all solution. Drought in Maine looks different than drought in New Mexico. When seeking indicators of drought, a place that depends on snowpack for its annual water supply must monitor different factors than a place where liquid precipitation determines the hydrology. Local economies, resources, and values influence how government, business, and the public respond to drought prediction, monitoring, and impacts.
NIDIS’s approach to building the foundation of a national DEWS has been to develop regional DEWS, where networks of researchers, academics, resource managers, policymakers, and other stakeholders share information and actions that help communities cope with drought.
The NIDIS Public Law calls for consultation with “relevant federal, regional, state, tribal, and local government agencies, research institutions, and the private sector” in the development of NIDIS. A NIDIS Executive Council and six NIDIS Working Groups are constructed around this mandate, to encourage consultation and information-sharing with a wide variety of stakeholders.
Through the Executive Council and the Working Groups, NIDIS shares information about its current status and gathers individual feedback on NIDIS challenges and priorities, and how they relate to the organizations and agencies represented among Council and Working Group participants. NIDIS does not obtain consensus advice from the NIDIS Executive Council or the Working Groups. Collectively, the information and individual feedback received from and shared with the Executive Council and the Working Groups supports the development of the regional DEWS.