6.4 A Web-Based National Drought Impacts Reporting Tool

Wednesday, 22 June 2005: 2:45 PM
North & Center Ballroom (Hilton DeSoto)
Mark Svoboda, National Drought Mitigation Center, Lincoln, NE; and M. J. Hayes, D. A. Wilhite, M. L. Higgins, and D. Wood

Although drought is the most costly natural disaster (FEMA 1995) affecting this country, no uniform reporting system is in place to document qualitative and quantitative impacts or economic losses. This is true for all levels of government and for all economic sectors and geographical regions within the United States. Estimates of drought losses to date have been incomplete and perhaps sorely inaccurate because of the many indirect impacts and inconsistent collection and reporting methods associated with drought impacts. So far, no methodology has been adopted that would lead to a comprehensive drought impact collection strategy. Such a system and tool would help to heighten awareness of the true damage that drought can inflict on a region and its economy.

The NDMC is establishing a methodology and reporting/dissemination tool under an overarching National Drought Impact Reporting Strategy (NDIRS). Such a system would lean heavily on partnerships with groups affected by drought. The goal is to provide a mechanism for feedback from all levels, from the individual up to the governors' offices and including local, state, and federal input. NDIRS would be built to stand alone but would potentially mold nicely with current and proposed national drought policy initiatives, such as the National Drought Preparedness Act introduced in Congress in 2004 and the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) presented and endorsed by the Western Governors' Association in June 2004. Both initiatives call for the development of better drought impacts reporting and documentation.

This tool will consist of a web-based package of products and interactive features that will also be designed to assimilate user-supplied information. NDIRS is being developed in stages, and the first goal is to develop a reporting tool in an interactive Internet-based environment. Data to be collected may come from the media, government, producers, general public, and conservation and/or resource management groups, to name a few. The tool will allow for individuals to actually submit an impact for verification. Future enhancements will give decision makers at all levels the ability to report or assess the impacts due to drought in near real-time down to the county level. An archival database will be built and maintained, allowing for query based on location, time, and impact category. The goal of this NDIRS effort is to develop a methodology that is comprehensive and consistent in quantifying the economic losses associated with drought, as well as social and environmental impacts at all levels.

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