The NIDIS Missouri River Basin (MRB) Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) Strategic Plan outlines priority tasks and activities to build drought early warning capacity and resilience. In early 2017, meetings were held to update the existing strategic plan, including a new focus on enhancing tribal capacity to use drought information and the use of new tools and drought indicators across the region. Before that plan could be finalized, drought quickly engulfed the Northern Plains region. The effects of the 2017 Northern Plains flash drought motivated NIDIS to coordinate multi-agency assessments of its impacts, causes, and predictability; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to renew their efforts to strengthen soil moisture monitoring in the region; and impacted states to examine their response plans. In this context, partners from across the MRB met in Billings, MT, in August 2019 to discuss next steps. Four priorities and a series of outcomes and actions organized by the five components of a DEWS were identified to be part of the next iteration of a MRB Strategic Action Plan (SAP).
The four priorities identified were:
- Build a comprehensive understanding of the many drought indicators used in the MRB DEWS to better demonstrate their value, limitations, and sector-specific, seasonal, and geographical applications. This will help users focus on information that is important to the region to better inform drought early warning and preparedness.
- Build a comprehensive understanding on how drought impacts relate to drought indicators to better quantify drought impacts across sectors and communities, and tie impacts to drought conditions and outlooks in a manner that resonates with target audiences.
- Identify and communicate proactive measures that can be taken prior to or during the development of drought to build drought resilience and strengthen drought response by empowering those coping with drought impacts to act.
- Enhance collaboration, coordination, and two-way communication among national, tribal, state, and local partners and between DEWS regions to strengthen drought early warning, preparedness, and resilience across the MRB.
The plan contains activities that the MRB DEWS network will initially focus on, organized by components of a drought early warning system. Annual meetings will be used to reassess priorities and direct action within the DEWS during the life of the plan.