Bridging the gap between research and stakeholders: a tale of three tools

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010: 4:45 PM
B213 (GWCC)
Mark D. Svoboda, National Drought Mitigation Center, Lincoln, NE; and C. Knutson and M. J. Hayes

Since its inception in 1995, the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) has made it a priority to work with various state and federal agencies to provide a suite of drought/climate services with a goal of bringing research to fruition through applications and operations. To this end, the NDMC has recently partnered with NOAA to develop three tools aimed at enhancing our nation's capacity to provide local drought information to stakeholders; collect, archive, and assess drought impacts; and foster communities to become “drought ready”.

The Republican River Basin Water and Drought Portal

With support from NOAA's Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP), the NDMC has been working with three natural resource districts (NRDs) in the Republican River Basin of Nebraska to develop a water and drought information web portal. The goal of the portal is to provide stakeholders in the basin with timely and relevant information on climate and the availability and management of water resources, as well as serve as a prototype for similar web portals in other watersheds across the country. To develop the portal, a,series of listening sessions were held in several rural communities within the basin in order to assess what needs agricultural producers, community water managers, resources managers, state and federal agencies, and the general public have for drought and water/climate information. During the listening sessions, stakeholder interaction and feedback were facilitated through discussions and the use of classroom performance system technology. The feedback has been essential to help inform the selection of content and design of the web portal, which will be finalized in 2010. At that time, the portal will be transferred to our partners at the NRDs for long-term maintenance and incorporated into the National Integrated Drought Information System portal (drought.gov).

The New and Improved Drought Impact Reporter

The Drought Impact Reporter (DIR) (droughtreporter.unl.edu) has been on-line at the NDMC since 2005, having already accumulated over 14,000 reports and impacts of drought in six basic categories: agriculture, water/energy, environment, fire, social, and other. Recent work funded by the NOAA TRACS Program has been focused on building an enhanced DIR that can become an operational fixture for drought impact reporting in the U.S. The new overhaul is aimed at making the DIRv2 more robust and user friendly allowing for a fully searchable, multi-source database of drought impacts as well as the ability to use a new web interface that combines data into a unified map. The DIR currently serves as one of the key portlets within the NIDIS Portal (drought.gov) and these improvements will be seamlessly integrated into NIDIS as well. The DIRv2 will now include nine report categories and will differentiate between “reports” and “impacts”. An easier to use and enhanced “Submit a Report” form will also include the ability to upload photos. Finally, new partnership work is underway with NOAA-NWS, Arizona, Hawaii, the CoCoRaHS volunteer network, and others to tap into and integrate drought reports and impacts into our national database archive.

Developing Drought Ready Communities

The most recent activity (currently underway) is seen in our work with five pilot communities in Illinois, Nebraska, and Oklahoma to establish a new “Drought Ready Community” (DRC) program. The NDMC has partnered on this project with the University of Illinois and the University of Oklahoma to develop a community driven process in integrating place-based planning to reduce vulnerability to drought. One of the main deliverable goals of the project is to develop a “drought resources kit” of educational, public awareness, climatological, planning and mitigation resources. Some of the key objectives include: 1) identify the strengths and shortcomings of available climate data, including what's available through the NIDIS portal, in meeting community-level needs; 2) investigate the feasibility of developing additional, more community-specific indicators, if needed; 3) identify the strengths and shortcomings of educational and public awareness materials in preparing communities for planning; 4) identify the strengths and shortcomings of available processes for developing community-level climatological history; develop and test a new process, if needed; 5) Develop and test a “Drought Ready Communities” kit; and 6) Define what a community needs to do to be certified as a “Drought Ready Community”.

Face-to-face work has begun with the five communities and workshops and listening sessions with community leaders and a diverse set of sectoral stakeholders will be conducted to get feedback from the pilot communities that can then be incorporated into the development of the DRC Kit and recognition process. We will then work with the communities to begin stepping them through the bronze, silver, gold certification process. When completed, the kit and certification matrix will then be deployed on all of the partners' web sites as well as the NIDIS Portal as models for case studies of community planning, education and awareness of drought.