On March 21, 2016, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum directing Federal agencies to build national capabilities for long-term drought resilience. The President tasked the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP) to work collaboratively to deliver on a Federal Action Plan including six goals and 27 associated actions to promote drought resilience nationwide. Importantly, these goals reflect many of the priorities identified by the on-the-ground leaders and experts who work daily to build a more resilient future for their communities. The actions are designed to complement state, regional, tribal and local drought preparedness, planning and implementation efforts.
The Memorandum and the Action Plan elucidate the role of the NDRP, a team of federal agencies, in helping communities manage the impact of drought by linking information, such as forecasts and early warnings, with drought preparedness strategies in critical sectors like agriculture, municipal water systems, tourism and transportation.
Federal agencies have mobilized to provide improved information and data, emergency and planning assistance, landscape-scale land management improvements, and investments in new technologies and approaches to water resource management. Continued drought conditions in the West and projections of more extreme droughts in the future underscore the urgency to pursue long term solutions for protecting our water resources and the communities and ecosystems that depend on them.
The Report to the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, published August 31, 2016, highlights accomplishments to date against the President’s Action Plan and provides an overview of some of the Administration’s work on drought response since 2009. It is the first of what will be regular updates on the NDRP’s commitment to work across federal agencies to deliver on-the-ground results.
Enhancing Community Preparedness for Drought
The Need to Prepare
Drought affects all facets of our society, from food production to water quality to public health, and there is a growing need to help communities, agriculture, businesses, and individuals threatened by drought to plan accordingly. From 1980-2000, major droughts and heat waves within the U.S. alone resulted in costs exceeding $100 billion. In 2012, approximately two-thirds of the continental U.S. was affected by chronic drought. Severe droughts are projected for the next several decades, impacting the nation’s communities and economy.
Federal Collaboration: The National Drought Resilience Partnership
The need for strengthened drought resilience has never been greater. To enable a more unified federal response to this national challenge, President Obama established the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP) in November 2013 as part of his Climate Action Plan. The NDRP is comprised of: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of the Interior, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Energy. With a focus on building long-term drought resilience, this federal partnership is dedicated to helping communities better prepare for future droughts and reducing the impact of drought events on livelihoods and the economy. The NDRP is:
- Strengthening coordination of federal drought policies and programs in support of state, tribal, and community efforts;
- Serving as a single federal point of contact on drought resilience;
- Leveraging the work of existing federal investments such as the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), the development of a National Soil Moisture Network, and the Bureau of Reclamation-Natural Resource Conservation Service partnership to improve agricultural water use efficiencies.
- Linking information such as monitoring, forecasts, outlooks, and early warnings with long-term drought resilience strategies in critical sectors such as agriculture, municipal water systems, energy, recreation, and manufacturing.
Communities can access information about federal resources, through the NIDIS website at www.drought.gov and a phone hotline, (202) 564-8086. In 2015, the public will be able to search information on federal drought and disaster assistance through a user friendly clearinghouse piloted by USDA.
Supporting State and Local Drought Strategies
The NDRP is actively engaged with states and partners in identifying the tools and actions they need to enhance community drought planning and water resource management, whether it is supporting specific elements of a state drought strategy such as protecting forest health or improving urban and agricultural water use efficiency in California and other heavily impacted western states, or working to demonstrate how preparedness can be improved when federal agencies go “all in” to develop a long-term drought strategy, as we are doing in Montana. Key federal components of collaborative engagement include:
- Preparedness, Mitigation, and Risk Management: supporting regional state, local, and tribal preparedness and planning,
- Actionable, Science-Based Information and Tools: converting data into knowledge for timely and informed decision-making,
- Sustainable Water Infrastructure: managing resources for a more secure water future •
- Managing Lands & Waters: resilient farms, ranches, and forests that support healthy watersheds and ecosystems; and
- Programs, Incentives, Outreach, and Education: 21st century approaches to drought preparedness and water security
Engaging with Key Stakeholders
On July 15, 2015, the NDRP hosted a White House Drought Symposium to bring together high level experts on water and drought issues at all levels of government, academia, the agricultural sector, conservation organizations, and the private sector. Participants took part in strategy sessions on building long-term drought resilience through watershed community drought planning and leveraging public and private innovation and investment.
This symposium is part of ongoing engagement with governors, mayors, county leaders, Tribes, NGOs, business leaders and academic institutions to identify effective approaches to building long-term drought resilience. The NDRP is now working to incorporate the symposium ideas and recommendations in federal drought planning and response.