Western Governors support drought planning information availability

By Carlee Brown, Policy Associate for Water and Wildlife, Western Governors’ Association

National Integrated Drought Information System

A lack of snowfall in the West during winter means a reduced water supply throughout the year, so monitoring and preparing for drought is important. The effects of drought echo through water and energy management systems into everyday life, from household chores to a state’s ability to build its economy.

That’s why Gov. John Hickenlooper and other members of the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) recently offered support for reauthorization of the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS).  In letters to Senate sponsors of pending NIDIS legislation (S.376) and House Science, Space & Technology Committee leadership, the Western Governors emphasized the importance of this program for drought preparedness and response.

NIDIS provides a single, authoritative portal for drought information on its website, drought.gov.  It coordinates observations and research from various federal, state and academic experts while providing a “one-stop shop” for the agricultural community, state water resource managers, private sector, media and others affected by drought.

The WGA spearheaded regional support for creation of NIDIS when it was proposed in the mid-2000s.  Since then, the governors have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in order to better share information between NOAA’s experts and the decision-makers in western states.

Last month, WGA Executive Director James Ogsbury submitted testimony regarding the importance of NIDIS for addressing the impact of drought on water and energy management. On Thursday, May 16, WGA co-sponsored the Summer 2013 National Drought Outlook, which indicated that drought is likely to persist across the West in coming months.

This is true for Colorado as well: Even with a wet spring, drought conditions still plague most of the state and will likely remain through the summer. Southern Colorado is particularly hard hit, where streamflow forecasts are at half of average levels.

Drought preparedness and response remains a priority for Western Governors, who will continue to work with Congress to ensure that NIDIS is reauthorized and that decision makers continue to have access to the best drought information available.

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