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Collaboration on Drought Resilience is Delivering Results for America's Communities and Economy

Posted by Ann Mills, Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment in Conservation
Jan 18, 2017
MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks department biologist and a local rancher
An MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks department biologist and a local rancher discuss water management in the Big Hole Valley, MT. The National Drought Resilience Partnership and the State of Montana are working to build long term drought resilience.

Over the past year, we have seen alarming mass tree mortality in California, the development of severe drought conditions in New England and the Southeast, and dropping water tables in regions throughout the United States. The five-year Western drought and recent droughts in other states threaten our communities, our farms, our freshwater fisheries, our forests, and our grasslands that depend on and provide clean, accessible water supplies.

For many years, Federal departments and agencies have been working to produce long term solutions to conserve and protect a safe, reliable water supply. Now, under the framework of the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP), a greater emphasis has been placed on improving federal agency collaboration to ensure more efficient use of program dollars and agency expertise.  The NDRP worked with a broad cross-section of stakeholder groups to shape six federal policy goals and an associated Federal Drought Resilience Action Plan.  As a result, more than 13 federal agencies and offices are cooperating in new ways under a shared strategy to deliver concrete results.

This partnership has yielded products and program priorities that better meet the needs of rural and urban communities; the energy, agricultural and transportation sectors; infrastructure and water managers; business and industry; and ecosystems.  For example, we have made improvements in the quality and quantity of ground water data available to Federal, state, tribal, and local agencies. We have completed a community public health assessment in California to better identify the communication, education and public health needs of drought-vulnerable communities.  We have launched multiple prize competitions to incentivize the development of new technologies or to scale up existing methods of water-use innovation. We are sharing water conservation best practices across water utilities, State governments and Federal agencies.

These accomplishments and goals can be found in the new NDRP End of Year Report (PDF, 2.5 MB). The report also spotlights examples of how this partnership is making a difference in communities across the country, including the Yakima River Basin in Washington, the Missouri Headwaters in Montana, and the Lower Colorado River Basin.  Importantly, it identifies priorities for 2017 and beyond,  including:  generating more data and information on soil moisture, groundwater and consumptive use; continuing analysis of drought impacts on critical infrastructure;  creating a better understanding of the health effects of drought; incorporating work on the connection between wildfire and drought to continue to increase resilience on federal lands; providing greater insight into how private markets can help build drought resilient infrastructure; and continuing to innovate water reuse and recycling strategies.

The NDRP has successfully worked with partners to help protect a critical resource: clean abundant water. Great opportunities lie ahead for continued collaboration that supports water secure communities and economies.

Category/Topic: Conservation