Here’s the letter from the Western Governor’s Association:
On behalf of the Western Governors’ Association (WGA), we are writing to express the Governors’ support for reauthorization of the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) program under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and urge you to make consideration of such legislation a priority in 2018. In May 2018, we expressed our support to Senate leadership for S. 2200, the National Integrated Drought Information System Reauthorization Act of 2018.
Western Governors were instrumental in the creation of NIDIS in 2006, and WGA has since worked with NOAA and other partners to champion the system’s implementation. The NIDIS program represents a vital tool in western water management, promoting a coordinated and integrated approach to coping with future drought. Rather than creating a new bureaucracy, the program draws from existing capacity in states, universities and multiple federal agencies, as called for in the original authorizing legislation. NIDIS continues to serve as a cost-effective model for federal-state collaboration in shared information services.
Western Governors are well-acquainted with the significant environmental, economic and social impacts of drought cycles on the West and its communities. The repetitive nature of drought conditions, as well as increased populations and their dependence on limited water resources, continue to push drought to the forefront of western water issues. Adequate measures to manage western water resources in the face of inevitable future drought conditions must be prioritized and implemented. Drought contributes to forest and rangeland fires, impairs ecosystems, degrades agricultural productivity, and poses threats to municipal and industrial water supplies.
The NIDIS program’s forecasting and monitoring activities provide the authoritative, objective and timely drought information that farmers, water managers, decision-makers, and local governments require for effective preparedness and response. NIDIS has established a drought portal on its website (www.drought.gov) where information from state, federal and academic partners is integrated into a single online source of information. Through NIDIS, NOAA is building a network of early drought warning systems and working with local resource managers to identify and address unique regional drought information needs. Federal reauthorization should further strengthen NIDIS with increased focus on soil moisture retention and sub-seasonal forecasting, critical factors in understanding and predicting drought conditions as identified by the Western Governors’ Drought Forum.
Water users throughout the West – including farmers, ranchers, tribes, land managers, business owners, recreationalists, wildlife managers, and decision-makers at all levels of government – must be able to assess the risks of drought before its onset to make informed decisions and implement effective mitigation measures. Western Governors continue to support the NIDIS program and urge the Committee to make its reauthorization a legislative priority in 2018.