About the WDCC

1997-98 Work Plan
of the Western Drought Coordination Council

1. Background
2. Council Mission and Objectives
3. Council Structure
4. Steering Group
5. Working Groups
5.5 Preparedness and Mitigation Working Group
5.6 Monitoring, Assessment, and Prediction Working Group
5.7 Response Working Group
5.8 Communications Working Group
6. Council Administration
6.2 Funding


1.0 Background

In February, 1997 the "Memorandum of Understanding Regarding the Future Management of Drought in the West" (MOU) was signed by the Western Governors' Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The purpose of the MOU is to establish a more comprehensive, integrated and expeditious response to drought emergencies, and to cooperatively plan for future droughts a recurrent feature of the climate of the West. Through the MOU, the signatories committed to establish a Western Drought Coordination Council (WDCC) which will serve to coordinate drought planning and response in the West.

2.0 Council Mission and Objectives

2.1 Mission Statement

Through a balanced, open, and inclusive process, develop and implement model drought policies and management/mitigation measures that reduce impacts associated with droughts, and that promote economic and environmental sustainability in the West.

2.2 Council Objectives:

  • Encourage and help western states, local governments, and tribes to develop and implement drought preparedness and mitigation programs and plans by establishing and maintaining a clearinghouse of information on techniques and procedures for drought monitoring and prediction, response, planning, and mitigation.
  • Identify and make recommendations on drought policy issues, legislation, and program implementation at the state, regional, and national levels.
  • Improve information exchange and coordination at all levels of government by facilitating the development and implementation of an efficient drought monitoring and information delivery system.
  • Heighten awareness and understanding of regional drought management and policy issues and promote the efficient use of water in the West.

3.0 Council Structure

3.1 Council Composition

The Western Drought Coordination Council (Council) shall be comprised of the Secretary of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the Secretary of the U. S. Department of the Interior, the Administrator of the U. S. Small Business Administration, and the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency; three governors representing the Western Governors' Association; three tribal leaders; and one person representing elected local government officials. [The WGA Drought Task Force has discussed adding another local government official to the Council. A decision on this issue needs to be made by the Council.] In addition, any federal department (represented by the secretary) or federal independent agency (represented by the director or administrator) that becomes a signatory to the MOU may be granted membership to the Council. A Council member may designate a senior staff member with responsibility for drought issues within their respective department, agency, state, tribe, or local government to represent the member on the Council. All Council members must have signed the MOU.

3.2 Council Leadership

The Council shall be led by two co-chairs. One co-chair shall be the Secretary of the U. S. Department of Agriculture (or the Secretary's designee) acting in the role of lead federal agency. One co-chair shall be a governor (or the governor's designee) who shall be named by the Chair of the Western Governors' Association.

3.3 Adding Council Members

Through a letter from the co-chairs, the Council may invite the secretary or administrator of any federal department or independent federal agency or a non-federal entity that has programs related to drought within their jurisdiction to become a signatory of the MOU and a member of the Council. Following receipt of the letter from the co-chairs and signing the MOU, the invitee shall become a full member of the Council.

3.4 Council Functions

The functions of the Council shall include overseeing the development, adoption, and implementation of an annual Work Plan. The Council will also establish and appoint members to the Steering Group and Working Groups. The Council shall prepare, on an annual basis, a statement of accomplishments.

3.5 Council Procedures

The work of the Council will be done by consensus. All meetings of the Council shall be open to the public. The Council shall meet at least once per year.

4.0 Steering Group

4.2 Steering Group Composition

The Steering Group shall be comprised of the following:

  • one senior policy advisor/staff representing each of the Council members; and,
  • the co-chairs of each Working Group.

4.2 Steering Group Leadership

The Steering Group shall be led by two co-chairs, one co-chair named by each of the Council Co- Chairs.

4.3 Steering Group Functions

The Steering Group's functions include:

  • securing resources to carry out the work of the Council;
  • coordinating the development, revision, and implementation of the annual Work Plan by the Working Groups;
  • organizing subgroups as necessary to carry out the day-to-day activities of the Council;
  • acting as liaison between the Council and the Working Groups; and
  • providing an annual report to the Council regarding progress in implementing the Work Plan.

4.4 Steering Group Procedures

The work of the Steering Group will be done by consensus. The Steering Group will meet periodically, as necessary, throughout the year to coordinate Working Group activities, and will meet at least once prior to the annual Council meeting to finalize its annual report to the Council. All meetings of the Steering Group shall be open to the public.

5.0 Working Groups

5.1 Working Groups

Working Groups shall be established by the Council.

5.2 Working Groups' Composition

Any person or organization which has a direct interest in, or expertise regarding, drought-related issues shall be welcome to participate in the Council's Working Groups.

5.3 Working Groups' Leadership

The Working Groups shall be led by two co-chairs, one co-chair named by each of the Council Co-Chairs.

5.4 Working Groups' Functions

During the first year, there will be four Working Groups formed under the Council to develop and make recommendations to the Council through the Steering Group for implementation in accordance with the Work Plan. These groups and the specific action items that each group will initiate during the first year are discussed below. The goal of each Working Group will be to accomplish the specific action items identified for year one, although it is recognized that some of these actions will carry over to the second and subsequent years. The Working Groups and Steering Group will cooperate with each other to identify and implement specific action items. The Working Groups will report the results of their progress on each action through the Steering Group to the Council at regular intervals, as well as carry out Council direction. The number and focus of the Working Groups may change over time as tasks are accomplished and the Work Plan is revised.

5.5 Preparedness and Mitigation Working Group

5.5.1 Goals and Objectives

This Working Group will concentrate on short- and long-term management and policy issues that are intended to reduce the economic, social, and environmental impacts (i.e. vulnerability) of drought in the West. The Working Group will identify preparedness actions, policies, and mitigation options that will facilitate this process and will work cooperatively with localities, states, Indian tribes, and federal agencies. The Working Group will build on the drought assessment, response, and planning experiences in western states, localities, and federal agencies, and will seek to identify new and innovative solutions to drought and water management issues. The Working Group will promote drought contingency planning, emphasizing a more proactive, anticipatory approach to drought management in the region.

For the purposes of this Work Plan the term mitigation is defined as those specific measures, projects, and actions taken with the intent to save lives and reduce risk of future damage, hardship, or suffering from a drought.

Some general, on-going goals of the Preparedness and Mitigation Working Group include:

  • Developing recommendations to the Council for drought planning and management alternatives to mitigate short- and long-term impacts before, during, and after drought emergencies occur.
  • Developing and maintaining an information clearinghouse on drought monitoring and prediction, response, mitigation, and preparedness for users throughout the region.
  • Developing educational resources (e.g. booklets, reports, videos, drought simulations) that promote the concepts of drought planning and mitigation to a diverse audience.
  • Interacting with local, state, tribal, and federal officials in the West and in other regions to share experiences on drought planning and mitigation.

5.5.2 Specific Action Items (Year 1)

  • Review and Analyze Existing Drought Plans. Analyze existing drought response plans adopted by localities, states, tribes, federal agencies, and other entities and identify the similarities and differences between plans, including characteristics such as organizational structures, monitoring systems, and response programs. This analysis will be shared with all interested parties.
  • Inventory and Assess Mitigation Options. Inventory all relevant mitigation options implemented in response to recent drought events, and assess their relative effectiveness in both the short and long term, noting any opportunities for improvement.
  • Identify a Model to Conduct Vulnerability Assessments. Promote the development and use of vulnerability assessments to determine the potential economic, environmental, and social impacts of drought on specific geographic regions and economic sectors in the West. For example, vulnerability assessments could be conducted for local water supplies and forests to determine the probable impacts associated with droughts of various intensity and duration.
  • Develop Information Clearinghouse. An information clearinghouse on drought monitoring and prediction, response, mitigation, and preparedness will be developed for users throughout the region in association with the ongoing programs of the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC).
  • Conduct Drought Planning Workshops. Drought workshops will be organized and conducted to help local, state, tribal, and federal governments and others learn how to prepare drought contingency plans and evaluate mitigation options. The Working Group may work with the NDMC in the organization of these workshops in the western region.

5.6 Monitoring, Assessment, and Prediction Working Group

5.6.1 Goals and Objectives.

Despite advances made over the past decade in understanding the climate system, meteorologists and climatologists cannot predict the onset and end of a drought. Research will continue to improve our knowledge about climate systems and our capability to understand and predict climate anomalies such as drought, but there are no simple solutions in sight. Therefore, it is imperative to develop a drought monitoring system that provides timely recognition of the occurrence of drought to local, state, tribal, and federal officials responsible for implementing drought response measures. The goal of the Working Group will be to develop such a monitoring system.

The activities of the Monitoring, Assessment, and Prediction Working Group are divided into three components. The specific focus and action items are given below. Monitoring.

The Working Group will develop a comprehensive drought monitoring system. The purpose of the monitoring system will be to collect, analyze, and disseminate, in a usable manner, available data and products to support resource assessment and decision making as it pertains to drought. The monitoring system will also track physical impacts during droughts that will help others assess socioeconomic impacts on various water users and economic sectors. Specific Action Items (Year 1)

  • Conduct a Census of Data Networks. The Working Group will conduct a census of federal, regional, state, local, and private remote and in situ hydro- meteorological networks. The census will identify station or site location, environmental variables measured, instrumentation characteristics, and a comprehensive site history and other parameters of each network. Variables may include temperature, dew point, wind, snow, snow depth, snow water equivalent, streamflow, precipitation, reservoir storage, ground water, river stage, soil temperature, solar radiation, soil moisture, and evaporation. Initially, the Working Group will access data and products from the National Weather Service, Coop Network, USDA SNOTEL, and RAWS networks. The Working Group will access other networks later.
  • Develop a Historical Climate Data Base. The Working Group will accumulate a historical data base for comparative analysis by initiating and maintaining a working relationship with current environmental archives including the National Climate Data Center (NCDC), the Regional Climate Centers, the Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) National Water and Climate Center, and the NRCS Soil Survey Center.
  • Link Networks. The Working Group will transform data from fragmented single- purpose networks into a multi-purpose asset for management of renewable natural resources at a regional level by developing linkages of inventories and information from data networks and environmental archives.
  • Distribute Climate Related Information. Once information from data networks are linked, the Working Group will make use of the Unified Climate Access Network (UCAN) to distribute climate-related products. UCAN is a national distribution network for climate-related products in an online climate data base format.

5.6.2 Assessment

The purpose of the assessment component is to prepare guidelines for use by decision makers at all levels as part of a nationwide drought early warning system. Specific Action Items (Year 1)

  • Evaluate Observed Data. The Working Group will conduct local, regional, and national evaluation of data, including mean, median, and variance to highlight daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, yearly, and historic anomalies.
  • Evaluate Derived Data. The Working Group will monitor derived variables and indices for drought assessment including the Palmer Drought Severity Index, Crop Moisture Index, Standardized Precipitation Index, Surface Water Supply Index, Crop Specific Indices, and Leaf Area Indices developed from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) for the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI).
  • Identify Triggers for Drought Types. The Working Group will make a determination of operational definitions and associated "triggers" and descriptive terms for meteorological, agricultural, and hydrological drought consistent with needs and activities of the Council. The Working Group will also determine appropriate indicators for assessing drought impact.
  • Regional Drought Assessment Reports. The council believes a quarterly regional drought assessment report depicting current drought status in the region would be a useful tool for mitigating the impacts of drought. By identifying areas of future concern, a product of this type would enable the Council to be more proactive in its activities. The Working Group will develop content and format for such a report in the first year, possibly issuing several prototype releases in preparation for formal, scheduled releases in year two.

5.6.3 Prediction

The purpose of the Working Group's focus on prediction is to alert decision makers of impending drought, drought severity, or the termination of drought. Specific Action Items (Year 1)

  • Weather and Climate Predictions. Monthly, seasonal, annual, and interannual forecasts will be monitored by the Working Group and interpreted for decision makers.
  • Forecast Verification. The Working Group will monitor the verification efforts for long-range forecasts to evaluate their suitability for use by decision makers involved in drought-related activities.
  • Drought Prediction Techniques. The Working Group will monitor drought prediction techniques and technologies, including the application of soil moisture, evaporation, and atmospheric and global ocean circulation to support improved forecasting.

5.7 Response Working Group

5.7.1 Goals and Objectives

This Working Group will concentrate on enhancing the drought response capability of states, promoting regional drought response mutual aid, strengthening intergovernmental response partnerships, and improving overall drought response management and customer service for future droughts by (1) identifying and cataloging drought assistance programs, resources, and points-of-contact; (2) aggregating western states' unmet needs in times of drought; (3) identifying drought response programmatic and policy issues; (4) developing action recommendations for issue resolution; (5) identifying potential drought response mitigation strategies, in cooperation with the Preparedness and Mitigation Working Group; and (6) publicizing drought response lessons learned, in cooperation with the Communications Working Group.

5.7.2 Specific Action Items (Year 1)

  • Review of Drought Reports. Review WGA and FEMA drought reports on the recent southwestern drought, consolidate/receive action reports, including lessons learned, and recommend actions to resolve residual issues. Track and report status of issue resolution.
  • Assistance Program Catalog Development. In conjunction with the Communications Working Group, develop and disseminate a catalog of federal assistance programs, general eligibility criteria, funding availability, and points-of- contact for each program.
  • Historical Responses and Strategies. Develop a list of historical state responses to typical short-term drought impacts and potential strategies for addressing these impacts.
  • Drought Occurrence Actions. When a drought occurs, the Working Group will aggregate reports for the western states to identify unmet needs. In coordination with state drought response organizations, the Working Group will make action recommendations and facilitate response actions, mutual aid, and partnerships. Additionally, the working group will ensure that a regional post-drought report is completed for each drought.

5.7.3 Future Action Items (Year 2 and 3)

  • Data Base Development. Develop a regional response data base.
  • Regional Response Network. In conjunction with the Communications Working Group, create a regional drought response network of working professionals with expertise in drought response.
  • State Response Structure and Plan. In conjunction with the Preparedness and Mitigation Working Group, promote the establishment within each state of a state- level drought response organizational structure and a comprehensive state drought plan that includes monitoring and risk assessment activities, and emphasizes both short- and long-term drought mitigation.
  • Private-Sector Outreach. The Working Group will strengthen ties to the private sector, businesses, industry, and professional organizations and associations.
  • Impacts of Long-Term Drought. Develop a list of potential impacts of extended, multiyear droughts (3 years or more), especially those in commerce, energy, and public health sectors.
  • Post-drought Evaluation, Lessons Learned. In coordination with the other Working Groups, obtain post-drought evaluation reports, including lessons learned from states, federal agencies, and other organizations and associations affected by drought. Consolidate and disseminate lessons learned.

5.8 Communications Working Group

5.8.1 Goals and Objectives.

The Communications Working Group's initial audience is identified as all parties interested in the objectives of the Council. The initial focus of the Working Group is to network with all parties interested in the mission of the Council and ensure that the proper means of communication are known, current, and widely distributed. The objectives of the Working Group are to: (1) identify and use existing drought-related information networks, and suggest complementary means of communication, where appropriate; (2) facilitate the exchange and dissemination of drought-related information, and act as a clearinghouse for those documents (where appropriate); (3) provide a forum for feedback and evaluation of information, programs, and services; and (4) provide an active communication outreach service for the Council through press releases and the preparation of articles for publication.

5.8.2 Specific Action Items (Year 1).

The Communications Working Group will work closely with the other Working Groups to prepare and disseminate products or documents. In addition, the Communications Working Group will take the lead for the following actions items:

  • Prepare communication strategy. Prepare, in cooperation with the co-chairs of the Working Groups and the Steering Group, a communication plan to implement the strategy for the Council and Working Groups. The plan will address communication and education products and their contents, as well as the dissemination of the information produced by Working Groups.
  • Prepare drought-related program directory. Prepare and distribute a directory of federal drought-related programs and points-of-contact for each of these programs in conjunction with the Response Working Group.
  • Prepare organizational directory. Prepare and distribute a directory, with the approval of the Steering Group, of state, local, and other organizations who are involved or interested in drought-related issues. This directory would also include contact points that could be used in the coordination of drought response activities.
  • Develop drought media briefing package. Develop a generic western states drought media briefing package that can be modified and supplemented with geographic-specific materials.

6.0 Council Administration

6.1 Administration

Coordination for the Council is currently provided by the staff of the Western Governors' Association with the assistance of the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) at the University of Nebraska. Upon adoption of this Work Plan by the Council, the overall management and administration of the Council will be provided by the NDMC. The NDMC was formed in 1995 to help governments and others reduce vulnerability to drought through preparedness and mitigation. The NDMC has agreed to provide administrative leadership for the Council and, as such, will manage and coordinate the Council activities including: organizing meetings of the Council, the Steering Group, and work groups (including facility logistics); facilitating conference calls and information exchange among Council participants and members; tracking of work product development and progress; preparing reports and other final work products of the Working Groups and the Council's Steering Group; and reporting and communicating Council activities to the Western Governors' Association, localities, tribes, state and federal governments, regional organizations and others on a regular basis.

6.2 Funding Needs

The Council recognizes that accomplishing its goals requires financial support. Administration and management costs include: personnel, meetings, conference calls, printing, and mailing. These costs are projected to be $61,550 per year, as indicated below. A "loaned" federal executive from the Bureau of Reclamation will be placed in the WGA office, under the supervision of the NDMC, to support Council activities. The Bureau of Reclamation will cover the salary of this person for a period of two years and provide $10,000 per year in operation funds in support of this individual activities. These operating funds are included in the annual Council budget given above.

WDCC Budget Summary
Administrative Leadership Dr. Don Wilhite (NDMC) $ 8,100
Drought Management Specialist (provided by Bureau of Reclamation)
Salary ($85,000 x 2 years)
Daily Costs
Administrative Assistance (NDMC) (Provided by USDA) 18,450
Secretary 5,000
Operating Costs 20,000
Total Direct Costs $251,550

6.3 Funding Support

During the first year, the Council Steering Group and Working Groups will be established and they will work toward implementation of the Work Plan set forth for in this document. To support this activity, the Council will receive support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior/Bureau of Reclamation. Other federal agencies may also contribute support to the Council.

Another federal fund source that is being pursued in the intermediate term is additional funding for the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) from USDA to cover the annual operating costs for the Council. Depending on appropriations in the Farm Bill and the legislation's timing this year, this option may provide support until more stable, long-term sources can be developed.

The future budget needs of the Western Drought Coordination Council could increase depending upon the Work Plan requirements. A long-term strategy for funding will involve a variety of sources. This could include: partnerships among federal agencies, WGA, foundations, and the private sector. The long-term strategy may entail working toward direct congressional funding for Council activities or the possible establishment of a nonprofit foundation. A specific long- term strategy for funding Council activities should be developed by the Steering Group during the first year and be presented to the Council for approval at its second annual meeting.

Document version: May 27, 1997
Posted to the web: July 3, 1997

Updated May 7, 1998

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