Western Governors Emphasize Need for Short- and Long-term Strategies, Preparedness at National Drought Forum

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec 13, 2012) - Speaking at the National Drought Forum held here today, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback emphasized the critical importance of water resources in the arid West and actions states have taken or that are needed to be adequately prepared.

"The moderate to exceptional drought conditions we've seen this year in Kansas and throughout much of the West are hurting communities, economies, agriculture and the quality of life," Brownback said.  "Drought impacts next year could be far more severe, especially given the reservoir storage in many basins has been depleted.  In Kansas, we revised our drought operations plan; identified tools to meet emergency water needs; and looked for ways we could better prepare for the next drought.

"A key outcome of this forum is to identify strategies that we can put in place now, given that drought is projected to continue into 2013.   As governors, we are anxious to work with partners to see real progress this spring."

Western Governors have a long and successful track record of working to address drought, including the establishment of the National Integrated Drought Information System in 2006 with federal agencies. They worked in partnership with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and signed a joint memorandum of understanding in 2011 aimed at addressing extreme weather and disaster risk reduction.  

Prior to the conference, Gov. Gary Herbert, Chairman of the Western Governors' Association, pointed to long-term strategies to better cope with drought.   

"We can't make it rain, but we can do a better job of preparing for drought conditions and mitigating the impacts of drought," Herbert said.  "We will continue to push for better forecasting of drought and better coordination of drought preparedness on the ground in order to help communities." 

Steps that could be taken immediately include:  real-time coordination and information-sharing on the status, impacts, and prospects for drought; identification of priority basins and projects; preparation of mitigation strategies for 2013; and coordination of disaster declarations and drought relief programs.  Longer term strategies include:  improved drought forecasting; reauthorization of the National Integrated Drought Information System; and establishment of a comprehensive, integrated drought preparedness policy. 

Additional information on WGA's water and drought programs can be found at: http://www.westgov.org/initiatives/water.

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