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Western States Drought Coordinators and Emergency Managers Meeting

Event Date & Time

Tuesday, July 21, 2015 - 1:30pm to Wednesday, July 22, 2015 - 9:30pm
Pacific Time
Seattle, Washington

This two day meeting brought together for the first time the individuals who serve as the lead coordinator for, or are heavily involved in the coordination of, drought-related activities from the 19 western states represented by the Western Governors Association (WGA). More than 60 people attended. Goals included:

  • Identifying and addressing drought-related issues that cut across all western states, such as:

        - new drought indices and monitoring tools
        - roles of state drought task forces
        - early warning capabilities
        - processes in declaring drought
        - challenges in addressing drought impacts
        - drought simulations, funding and planning

  • Highlighting where states are working together and how interstate coordination can be improved
  • Sharing effective strategies, recent lessons learned and case studies of mitigation and response


Read the meeting report

List of attendees


DAY 1: TUESDAY, JULY 21, 2015

Session 1: Welcome & Overview
Introductions and overview of the two-day agenda. Meeting goals, objectives, and desired outcomes.
  • Veva Deheza, National Integrated Drought Information System
  • Carlee Brown, Western Governors’ Association
  • Maia Bellon, Washington Department of Ecology
Session 2: Drought and Fire Outlook
Drought in the West is a persistent issue, particularly in California over the last four years and more recently in Oregon and Washington. This session will discuss the status and expected evolution of drought and fire conditions across the Western U.S., as well as the status of El Niño and its expected strength for the upcoming fall season. Washington State will present information on what it is doing to respond to the current drought.
Session 3, Part I: Monitoring to Inform Drought Response
Drought is a slow-onset disaster and as such requires consistent monitoring for early detection and response. This session will focus on some of the latest drought indicators and monitoring processes such as the state drought monitoring groups that provide input in the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Moderator: Mark Svoboda, National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC)
Session 3, Part II: State Views on Compiling the U.S. Drought Monitor
Moderator: Mark Svoboda, NDMC
  • Texas perspective: John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas State Climatologist
  • Oregon perspective: Kathie Dello, Oregon Climate Change Research Institute
  • Colorado perspective: Nolan Doesken, Colorado State Climatologist
Session 4: When and How States Declare Drought
Some Western states declare drought at a state level while in others, drought declaration responsibilities are appointed to the local counties. This session addresses these approaches along with the scientific, political and communication considerations of declaring drought.
Panel: Role of State Drought Task Forces in Drought Response and Declarations
Moderator: Carlee Brown, Western Governors' Association
Panel: How States Communicate About Drought 
Moderator: Kathie Dello, Oregon Climate Change Research Institute
Panel: Communicating About the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomena and its potential for informing state drought risk management
Moderator: Kathie Dello, Oregon Climate Change Research Institute
Session 5: Drought and Water Rights Implications
Administration of water rights provides a structured framework for allocating water supplies, particularly when supplies are limited during drought. Junior water rights holders are often the first water users to legally be shut off; however, water rights of more senior priority can also be affected, depending on drought severity. This session presents three case studies where water users were curtailed, and discusses future implications. The panel addresses impacts and challenges encountered; management of stakeholder and public outreach; adaptive strategies that have been used to minimize/avoid impacts (i.e. voluntary conservation activities); potential legal outcomes and future implications.
Moderator: Kevin Werner, NOAA
Session 6: How Drought Initiates Institutional, Policy, Regulatory Change
State drought response and mitigation plans have been activated and tested over the past five years. Opportunities and limitations posed by existing institutional and policy frameworks to cope with and mitigate for drought and water supply shortages have been revealed. This session will explore innovations in these frameworks that have come about as a result of the drought in the West. Discussion will focus on the role drought has had in driving innovative policies in various areas.
Moderator: Kirsten Lackstrom, Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments
Wildland Fire
Water Efficiency
Session 7: Drought Tools and Simulations to Inform Planning
NDMC’s Drought Risk Atlas puts an ongoing drought into context with an area’s drought history, thereby helping the user visualize and assess risk related to drought. Drought simulations and gaming exercises have been used to test drought plans, informing where gaps might exist, and what might be acceptable trade-offs in terms of response and mitigation actions.
Moderator: Kelly Smith, NDMC
Session 8: Drought Mitigation Planning and Funding
Three major components of an effective Drought Plan include mitigation, response and vulnerability assessment. Optimal statewide mitigation planning coordinates the efforts of state agencies and organizations, and local jurisdictions. The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA)-associated guidance for state hazard mitigation plans lays out this important planning process. Adequate funding sources are necessary to support such planning processes, as well as the flexibility to leverage them.
Moderator: Veva Deheza, NIDIS

DEWS Regions

California Nevada Drought Early Warning System
California Drought Early Warning System
Intermountain West Drought Early Warning System
Missouri River Basin Drought Early Warning System
Pacific Northwest Drought Early Warning System
Southern Plains Drought Early Warning System
Upper Colorado River Basin Drought Early Warning System