Coping with Drought

November 11, 2003

Photo of boatramp.

Boat ramp leading to Barr Lake, CO, is stranded quite a distance from the water due to drought conditions.

Recently there has been much in the news about drought in the United States. Almost every region of this country has suffered to some extent during the past few years, including regions like Florida and Virginia that are not normally associated with water shortages. While recent rain and snowfall may have relieved the drought in some areas, most reservoirs in the West remain at record lows according to the American Water Works Association. An article in US News & World Report says it will take more than 3 years of average rainfall to refill many of these reservoirs. Unfortunately the National Weather Service is predicting dry weather and no relief from the drought for most of the West again this year. This will most likely mean a continuation of shortages, rationing, and drought surcharge pricing.

Federal facilities can play an important role in preserving local water resources. They are often a major user of water in their communities, and can "Lead By Example" by demonstrating good water management practices. This is especially true for facilities that have their own water supply. These facilities should not be seen to flout local drought restrictions by, for example, having a beautiful green lawn when the rest of the community is restricted from watering.

Executive Order 13123 and FEMP can assist facilities in meeting drought restrictions or improving water efficiency in the long-term. The Executive Order resulted in guidelines for developing a water management plan, which should include a drought response plan and working with the local utility. In addition, it requires the implementation of at least four Water Efficiency Best Management Practices (BMPs). The plan and BMP process will help federal facilities identify the best and most cost-effective efficiency options for their facilities. Further information and the list of BMPs can be found on the FEMP Web site.

Completing the planning process and BMP implementation will impact water use and costs in the long run; however, there are some steps that facilities can take to immediately reduce water use. Many of the actions are also included in the BMPs.

For more information on federal water efficiency, please contact Stephanie Tanner of NREL at 202-646-5218 or stephanie_ tanner@nrel.gov.