The Biden-Harris Administration has released the Drought Resilience Interagency Working Group’s (IWG) Summary Report outlining financial and technical assistance actions that have been taken to date to improve drought-stricken communities’ longer-term resilience to drought. The IWG was established a little over a year ago.
The 13-page summary can be downloaded from the White House’s website.
“The dangerous impacts of climate change and drought are being felt across America. Through the Drought Resilience Interagency Working Group and President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Biden-Harris administration is quickly ushering every resource available to drought-impacted communities to provide relief now, and make investments long into the future,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “We remain committed to an all-of-government approach and collaboration with Tribes, irrigators, businesses and adjoining communities to address the impacts of the drought crisis and work together on long-term solutions.”
“Intense drought and climate change continue to threaten major economic drivers in rural communities, disrupt food systems and water supplies, endanger public health, jeopardize the integrity of critical infrastructure, and exacerbate wildfires and floods,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Through the IWG, collaboration and coordination among federal agencies has increased in an effort to more effectively deploy resources and support during these intense, drought-stricken times. We have also worked to improve and expand our disaster assistance programs to better help producers recover and build resiliency for those being impacted by drought.”
$13 billion for water-related investments.
The Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) co-chair the Drought Resilience IWG, which was created under the White House’s National Climate Task Force.
The Drought Resilience IWG agencies are working cooperatively in a whole-of-government manner, to address drought issues through existing programs and resources. There are many historic opportunities provided by the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to provide critical funding to address water challenges, which includes drought. The Drought Resilience IWG will facilitate interagency coordination to effectivity deploy $13 billion in water-related investments, including $12.4 billion at the Interior Department (including investments outlined here) and $918 million at USDA.
Work done to date; Tribes given a voice.
Key actions since the Drought Resilience IWG creation include:
- In fiscal year 2021, the Bureau of Reclamation and USDA coordinated drought relief efforts in some of the most drought-stricken areas in the West. This included a collective investment of $38 million ($23 million from Reclamation and $15 million from USDA) in the Klamath Basin to help farmers and Tribes.
- In January 2022, Secretaries Haaland and Vilsack, National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and Federal Emergency Management Administration Administrator Deanne Criswell met with the Western Governors’ Association and signed a Memorandum of Understanding to launch a Task Force as a forum for federal, state, and territorial representatives for the collaborative response to land, water, and wildlife challenges facing western landscapes and people.
- The Interior Department, USDA, and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration actively participated in listening sessions, drought webinars, and roundtables to disseminate important drought information, discuss the current crisis, and explain the investments in water and drought resilience that will be made possible from the BIL. These efforts will continue throughout 2022.
- FEMA assembled with stakeholders, decision makers, and drought experts to exchange information regarding federal drought response and innovative ideas to build long-term drought resiliency.
- In the Upper Colorado Basin, a federal advisory committee, the Adaptive Management Work Group (AMWG), was formed to bring key issues in the Colorado River Basin to resolution. The AMWG consists of the Hualapai Tribe, the Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation, the Pueblo of Zuni, the Southern Paiute Consortium, the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, the Interior Department, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the National Park Service, USFWS, the seven basin states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming), environmental interests, the recreational industry, federal power purchase contractors, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and the Western Area Power Administration.
- The USDA Climate Hubs continue to focus on drought and are working closely with regional partners including NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System and their Drought Early Warning System, the National Drought Mitigation Center(link is external), and the National Weather Service through the Community Collaborative Rain Snow and Hail Network(link is external).
- The Drought Resilience IWG is part of the Administration’s commitment to provide support for drought-stricken communities. It is focused on addressing the need to improve communities’ longer-term resilience to drought given the elongated and severe drought cycles that climate change is causing.
National Drought Resilience Partnership.
The administration has also revitalized the collaboration of the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP). The NDRP, formed in 2013, leverages multiple federal agencies, including developing innovative science-driven actions to address water supply challenges.