Western Governors’ Drought Forum meeting wraps up first year, looks ahead


The Western Governors’ Drought Forum gathered water management experts in Nevada to discuss the most significant themes to emerge during the initiative's first year and next steps to consider to better anticipate and manage drought.

The meeting at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village, Nev., touched on a variety of subjects: the latest regional drought developments, how Governors are responding to drought, and efforts to better distill drought data and present it in more user-friendly formats.

The Forum is the initiative of WGA Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. It is designed to foster a regional dialogue in which states and industry can share case studies and best practices on drought policy, preparedness and management.

Gov. Sandoval also released the Western Governors Drought Forum Report, which is designed as a roadmap to the online resource that collects the work of the Forum and is arranged around seven key themes that have emerged during the first year of the Forum.

"Our Drought Forum discussions have shown that westerners are experts at innovating in response to water supply variability," said Gov. Sandoval. "They have also shown the importance of communicating across sectors and state lines to best respond to drought.  Western states will continue to thrive, even with the threat of drought, so long as we work together and make the most of the water we have."

Gubernatorial leadership in drought response is nothing new, noted Veva Deheza, Deputy Director, National Integrated Drought Information System, NOAA. During the session "Drought Outlook and Latest Developments" Dehaza cited governors' actions over the past decades -- including an MOU signed by Western Governors with NOAA last year -- before concluding “This has been an active governorship that has been cognitive of drought for a long time and taken steps to address it.”

Other comments from the day, which ended with remarks by Gov. Sandoval:

  • John Laird, the California Secretary for Natural Resources, explained that severe penalties (including mandatory water usage classes for chronic abusers) have ultimately resulted in positive water use trends in his hometown of Santa Cruz, Calif. “What we have learned is that strict water regulations really do limit water use, and we’re trying to take that out more broadly in the state.”
  • Leo Drozdoff, Director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, reminded: “Conditions throughout the West are different. So, too, are the challenges … What’s important not to do is pit one state against the other. One size does not fit all.”
  • Michael Teague, Secretary of Energy and Natural Resources in Oklahoma said that collaboration between state agencies needs to become a mindset, not a once-in-a-while project. "So much of this is just breaking out of the silos.”

The meeting also included an update on the latest drought outlook by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and an overview of data collection and analysis efforts for drought management.

WATCH: Western Governors' Drought Forum First-Year Video

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