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Western Governors Drought Council

Droughts are a natural part of shaping the landscape in the West. In order to cope with the activities associated with droughts, the Western State Governors met to develop a joint approach to the future management of drought impacts.. In February 1997, numerous state and federal agencies signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to formally establish a more comprehensive, integrated response to drought emergencies and cooperatively plan for future droughts. The United States Department of Agriculture was designated as the lead agency for the Monitoring, Assessment, and Prediction Working Group.

The MOU has established a Western Drought Coordination Council to implement a program of action. To date, a work plan for the Council has been developed, a Steering Body has been formed and four Working Groups established. The Council is Co-Chaired by the Governor of New Mexico and the Secretary of Agriculture. The Work Group Co-Chair selections were limited to those agencies (State, Federal, Tribal) that signed the original MOU. One Co-Chair is from the State and the other from the Federal side. The four working groups and charge are:

  • Preparedness and Mitigation Working Group: will review and analyze existing drought plans, inventory and assess mitigation options, identify a model to conduct vulnerability assessments, develop an information clearinghouse, and conduct drought planning workshops.
  • The Monitoring, Assessment and Prediction Working Group: will develop a drought monitoring system that provides timely recognition of drought, and a quarterly report assessing and predicting potential drought areas is to be delivered to the WGDC.
  • The Response Working Group: will concentrate on enhancing response capability of states, promoting regional drought response mutual aid, strengthening intergovernmental response partnerships, and improving overall drought response management.
  • The Communications Working Group: will prepare a communications strategy, a drought-related program and organizational directory, and develop a generic drought media briefing package. The Monitoring, Assessment, and Prediction Working Group is Co-Chaired by a representative from the National Water and Climate Center (NWCC). The NWCC plans an active role in all areas of this working groups' mission. Numerous NWCC products will be made available to meet the needs of the WGDC. Many of the monitoring and assessment products needed by the WGDC will come directly from the NWCC functional areas of assessing snow pack conditions, surface water supply indexes (SWSI), and forecasting seasonal volume flows.