Washington, D.C. –Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) and Representative Dan Boren (D-OK) today introduced legislation to improve Federal efforts to prepare for and respond to drought.  The bill, H.R. 6489, would reauthorize the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), which brings together information from across the Federal government, consolidates and disseminates drought-related data on an ongoing basis. 

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, almost 80 percent of the U.S. is experiencing some level of drought conditions, and more than one-fifth of the country is suffering from extreme to exceptional drought conditions.  This year’s drought is considered the most severe and extensive in at least 25 years.  Agriculture is the most significantly impacted sector with approximately 80 percent of agricultural land experiencing drought and more than 2,000 U.S. counties already designated as disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Originally established in 2006 legislation authored by Chairman Hall (Public Law 109-430), NIDIS acts as a data clearinghouse, and also works to develop and actively support a collaborative framework between researchers and managers.  NIDIS developed and operates the U.S. Drought portal, a website that features a range of services related to drought, including historical data on past droughts, decision support services for managing current droughts, and a forum for stakeholders to discuss drought-related issues.  The NIDIS Program has also developed and operates four regional drought early warning system pilot projects.

H.R. 6489 extends authorization of NIDIS through 2017 and ensures that vital drought research and coordinating activities continue.  The bill encourages further development of regional drought early warning systems, requires an analysis of the implementation of NIDIS to date, and calls for planning to describe future milestones and identify research, monitoring, and forecasting needs to enhance the predictive capability of drought early warnings, the length and severity of droughts, and the contribution of weather events to reducing or ending drought conditions.

On July 25th, 2012, the Science, Space and Technology Committee held a hearing to examine a discussion draft of the bill, receiving testimony on drought impacts and mitigation priorities from scientists and State and local government leaders.