In 2012, two-thirds of the continental United States was affected by drought.
The losses were staggering: $30 billion to agriculture alone and far more when you add the damages to water supplies, tourism, transportation, and near-shore fisheries. Fighting drought-related wildfires tacked on another $1 billion.
"Last year, the worst drought in generations devastated farms and ranches across the nation," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said earlier this fall. "But our work isn't done and we can always better prepare for the future."
Drought will likely be an issue for the foreseeable future. A recent article in Scientific American magazine, for example, pointed out the similarities between conditions in the American Southwest and those in Australia before that country's devastating 10-year Millennial Drought.
In response to requests from communities, businesses, and farmers and ranchers around the country, the federal government a few weeks ago announced the National Drought Resilience Partnership. It's an effort to streamline access to federal agency drought recovery resources and provide information about conditions, among other tasks.
But there is much that local governments, non-profits, and community water-based organizations can do to prepare for, mitigate, and recover from the effects of drought.
With that in mind the National Center for Appropriate Technology is developing the Drought Relief Corps, a program designed to apply the energy of the nation's youth to the issue. Similar to the AmeriCorps programs FoodCorps and EnergyCorps that NCAT has developed and managed for years, DRC will match well-qualified members with host organizations.
Together, the host organizations and DRC members will design and carry out drought plans tailored for the area, with support and training from NCAT.
You can help your community prepare. For more information about DRC and becoming a partnering organization, go online at drought.ncat.org/ or call Carl Little at 406-494-4572.
Sustainable Agriculture Programs Manager
National Center for Appropriate Technology