Water Resources:

Federal Efforts to Monitor and Coordinate Responses to Drought

RCED-93-117: Published: Jun 8, 1993. Publicly Released: Jul 13, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the federal government's response to drought, focusing on the: (1) data gathered and used by federal agencies to report drought conditions; and (2) federal mechanisms to plan, monitor, and coordinate the government's response to drought.

GAO found that: (1) three federal agencies have primary responsibility for collecting drought data and sharing the data among other federal, state, and local agencies; (2) most users are satisfied with the quality of the drought data, but some agencies believe that the accuracy and reliability of the data could be improved with more collection points and better technology; (3) three federal agencies are developing a drought atlas that will provide probable frequencies for droughts and give a rational basis for managing water during droughts; (4) there is no federal organization responsible for monitoring and planning for drought or coordinating the federal response to drought; (5) temporary interagency committees have coordinated the government's response to drought in the last 20 years; (6) an interagency committee is needed to coordinate the monitoring of drought conditions and resolve conflicts in water allocation decisions during severe droughts; (7) two federal agencies have been authorized to develop contingency plans for droughts; and (8) Congress has required the President, with the assistance of an advisory commission and staff, to review federal activities and policies that affect water allocation and use in 19 western states.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress has not acted on this recommendation and does not plan to act on it in the near future.

    Matter: Because the Western Water Policy Review Advisory Commission is to review federal water activities affecting the western states and is to consider whether reorganization or consolidation should be proposed for water resources development and management agencies, the appropriate committees of Congress may wish to request that the commission consider whether a permanent mechanism is needed to monitor drought and to plan and oversee the federal response to severe drought. The commission may also be requested to consider whether such a mechanism should have authority to resolve policy differences among federal agencies.


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