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About the Missouri River Basin DEWS

Map of Missouri River Basin with States labeled: Montana, N Dakota, S Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, IowaIn February 2014 more than 70 stakeholders from across the Missouri River Basin (MRB) met in Nebraska City, Nebraska, to discuss the different approaches people and communities could take to better prepare for and anticipate drought.  The result of that discussion is the Missouri River Basin Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) and its strategic plan. The plan is a two-year road map organized under three broad priority areas:

  • Drought Early Warning and Risk Management: The MRB States will focus on improving data and information for drought risk management at the state level.  Examples of activities include drought scenario exercises, improving technical capacity of State Drought Task Forces, and working with watershed groups to improve resilience to drought.
  • Drought Early Warning and Risk Management: The MRB Tribes is centered around working with the MRB Tribes to improve drought data and information and effectively communicating that information to tribal governments.
  • Across Basin Activities focus on improvements in drought monitoring and forecasts, such as improving soil moisture and snow monitoring as described in the 2014 Water Resources and Reform Development Act, improving the monthly Midwest/Great Plains Early Warning Webinars, improving Missouri Basin quarterly and extremes summaries, and improving partnerships with U.S. Department of Agriculture, DOI Climate Science Center & Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Read the 2016 Plan (downloadable pdf)

Activities in the MRB

Map of the Montana Demonstration Project

The Montana Demonstration Project

This project is focused on the headwaters of the MRB (upstream of Fort Peck Reservoir) and is part of a larger effort by the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP) to improve overall drought resilience for the U.S.  The activities included in the project are a result of workshops held in Bozeman, MT (03/2015) and Dillon, MT (09/2015).  The workshops included participants from seven sub-watersheds of the Upper Missouri Basin: the Beaverhead, Ruby, Big Hole, Upper Gallatin, Lower Gallatin, Madison, and Jefferson River watersheds. Several themes emerged from these meetings, including: 1) What can be done in the watersheds, recognizing all of the work already underway; 2) How to leverage, integrate, and build on existing successful efforts such as watershed restoration plans (WRPs) many of the watersheds have already developed; 3) Developing and enhancing collaboration with active NGO partners, state agencies, universities, and private citizen interests.  During the spring of 2016, NIDIS is conducting two projects for the Demonstration Project.  They include:

  • Drought planning course: NDMC, NIDIS, EPA, and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) are conducting a drought-planning course for the MRB Headwaters [LINK TO COURSE].  The course is being conducted approximately monthly during the Spring 2016 and will cover the drought planning process from beginning the process of planning to developing mitigation and response options.
  • Drought Monitoring roadmap: NIDIS, in collaboration with the Montana State Climate Office, Montana DNRC, USGS, Bureau of Land Management, US Bureau of Reclamation, NDMC, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service is also developing a drought monitoring roadmap for the MRB Headwaters, to identify local and regional needs and data gaps related to soil moisture, streamflow and precipitation monitoring, among other things (e.g., remote sensing applications).

Front page image of the Wind River Indian Reservation Climate and Drought SummaryDrought/climate summary on the Wind River Indian Reservation 

NIDIS is supporting the creation of a drought/climate summary on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The drought summary will also support the development of a Wind River Indian Reservation (WRIR) Drought Management Plan.  The drought/climate summary is already in progress and being led by the High Plains Regional Climate Center and the NDMC.  The WRIR Drought Management Plan is just beginning and will be part of the Wind River Indian Reservation’s Vulnerability to the Impacts of Drought and the Development of Decision Tools to Support Drought Preparedness project, funded by the North-Central Climate Science Center (  The purpose of this project is to conduct an assessment of key climatological and social-ecological vulnerabilities, risks, and response capacities of the WRIR to inform the development of a drought management plan.  NIDIS’ role will be to facilitate the development of the plan using the vulnerability assessment work as an organizing activity.