No single federal agency has responsibility for preventing or responding to the effects of drought. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has at times explicitly excluded drought from its responsibilities, and generally focuses more on faster-moving disasters. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is highly involved in many aspects of preventing drought impacts and providing relief to affected agricultural producers. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is the lead federal agency in monitoring and attempting to predict drought. The U.S. Geological Survey plays a key role in monitoring hydrologic aspects of drought, including snowpack, streamflow, and groundwater. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation both manage river systems through such means as dams and levies, Reclamation primarily west of the Mississippi. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency monitors water quality, which suffers during drought. The Centers for Disease Control is getting involved in drought as it affects public health.
The Congressional Research Service issued a report in August 2012, Drought in the United States: Causes and Issues for Congress
National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), 2006-Present
“Based on needs articulated by the National Drought Policy Commission in 2000, and the Western Governors’ Association in 2004, the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-430) was passed and signed by the President. The law calls for an interagency, multi-partner approach to drought monitoring, forecasting, and early warning led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NIDIS is envisioned as a dynamic and accessible drought risk information system that provides users with the capacity to determine the potential impacts of drought, and the decision support tools needed to better prepare for and mitigate the effects of drought.”
From “Activities and Plans of the National Integrated Drought Information System,” by Jim Verdin and Roger Pulwarty, presented at Climate Information for Managing Risks, University of Florida, June 2008.
The NIDIS Portal – drought.gov – went on-line in October 2007 to provide a coordinated federal drought monitoring and research presence.
Western Governors’ Association Drought Initiative
The Western Governors’ Association has been a driving force in getting NIDIS established and in pushing for a more comprehensive U.S. water policy.
Managing Drought and Water Scarcity in Vulnerable Environments – A Roadmap for Change in the United States, 2006-2007
In July 2007, the Geological Society of America organized a Congressional briefing on “Managing Drought: A Roadmap for Change in the United States,” in association with the Congressional Hazards Caucus and the Hazards Caucus Alliance. The document by that name was the culmination of a conference by the same name in September 2006. A press release with links to the full report and related documents is available on the GSA’s website.
National Drought Policy Commission, 1998-2000
The National Drought Policy Commission was established under the National Drought Policy Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-199) to ensure collaboration between different government agencies on drought-related issues. The Commission’s work concluded when it issued its final report, Preparing for Drought in the 21st Century, in 2000.
Western Drought Coordination Council, 1997-1999
The Western Drought Coordination Council (WDCC) was in operation from 1997 through 1999, and went on hiatus as the National Drought Policy Commission was forming. Despite its short existence, the WDCC was highly productive. Its products and findings are archived.