News Feature | November 26, 2013

Crippling Drought Prompts New Federal Efforts

By Sara Jerome


Federal officials say they plan to bolster their efforts to save bodies of water threatened by drought conditions in the Southwest.

In a speech last week, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said she wants to see a boost in regional efforts to conserve water.

Jewell cited the Colorado River and Lake Mead as examples of the water conservation problems, the Sentinel reported.  She said the Colorado River Basin is struggling with water levels in part due to climate change. 

“Climate change is upon us,” she said in the report. “You see it in droughts throughout the West. You see it in the Colorado River. If you look at the levels in Lake Powell or Lake Mead or any of the other lakes that are in that region, you will see that we have a huge problem.”

Utilities often shoulder the burden of water scarcity. Drought conditions in the southwest "have far-reaching impacts on nearly every facet of society, and society turns to the water industry to solve them," Water Online previously reported

Jewell's remarks coincided with regional noise on the issue, landing "the same day that more than 80 public officials from the Colorado River basin – including 16 local government officials from Arizona – sent a letter to the Interior Department supporting water conservation measures," the report said. 

The letter “urged state and federal governments to follow up on a 2012 Bureau of Reclamation report that warned about the future of the Colorado River," the article said. 

Obama administration officials also announced last week that they plan to do more to help communities prepare for droughts. 

"Federal agencies will provide better and more accessible information about matters such as long-term weather prospects and soil moisture levels under a program designed to help communities prepare for future droughts and respond more effectively when they happen, Obama administration officials said Thursday," the Associated Press reported

The program is a response to the 2012 drought, the most severe in 70 years, the report said. The drought "caused more than $30 billion in losses from crop failures, wildfires and other ripple effects."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will take the lead on the heightened federal effort. 

Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday announced the creation of the National Drought Resilience Partnership, "which also will involve the Department of Interior, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Administration," the report said. 

Image credit: "20130822-OC-RBN-3021," © 2013 USDAgov, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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