Drought in the United States: Causes and Issues for Congress [March 2, 2009]   [open pdf - 373KB]

"This report focuses on the physical causes of drought, its history in the United States, and what may be expected in the near future. Although currently drought can be predicted for a particular region for at best a few months in advance, past history suggests that severe and extended droughts are inevitable and part of natural climate cycles, particularly in the West. […]. The prospect of extended droughts and more arid baseline conditions in parts of the United States could suggest new challenges to federal water projects, the construction of which was based largely on 20th century climate conditions. In responding to competing demands for water, such as deliveries to serve agricultural demands, municipal needs, endangered species, and others, federal water delivery systems may have to be re-tuned to match a drier average climate in the West. As a further complication, federal, state, and local authorities make water resource decisions within the context of multiple and often conflicting laws and objectives, competing legal decisions, and entrenched institutional mechanisms. The evolving nature of drought, split federal and non-federal responsibilities, and a patchwork of federal programs and congressional committee jurisdictions make development of a comprehensive national drought policy difficult. Although Congress has considered some of the recommendations issued by the National Drought Policy Commission in 2000, comprehensive drought legislation has not been enacted."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL34580
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