Managing Drought And Water Scarcity In Vulnerable Environments - A Roadmap For Change In The United States

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Senate Briefing
Room 385 Russell
11:00 am to 12:00 pm


House Briefing
Room 2325 Rayburn
2:00 to 3:00 pm

Currently about 30% of the United States is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions with economic, social, and environmental impacts expected to be in the billions of dollars. The hardest hit areas are in the Southeast and the West.

Recent episodes of drought coupled with rapidly expanding populations in the water-short western states and in the southeast, have raised substantial concern about our current crisis-based approach to drought management. A national drought conference, "Managing Drought and Water Scarcity in Vulnerable Environments", was held in September 2006. This conference has resulted in the preparation of a document entitled "A Roadmap for Change in Drought Management". This roadmap recommends the adoption of a new paradigm for proactive drought management. This briefing will present the key recommendations from the roadmap and the conference.


Opening Remarks
The Honorable Ben Nelson (Nebraska), co-chair of the Congressional Hazards Caucus (For the Senate briefing only)

Dr. Gene Whitney, Assistant Director for Environment, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy


Dr. Jack Hess, Executive Director, Geological Society of America

Setting the Stage for Improved Drought Management in the United States

Dr. Don Wilhite, Director, National Drought Mitigation Center, Nebraska

Managing Drought in the United States: A Roadmap for Science and Public Policy 

Mr. David Witter, Director Environmental Compliance and Water Policy, El Dorado Water District, California

Managing Drought at the District Level

Participant Biographies

Dr. Gene Whitney is the Assistant Director for Environment at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). He initially came to OSTP as the U.S. Geological Survey representative to the National Science and Technology Council. Before coming to OSTP, Gene was Chief Scientist of the USGS Energy Resources Team in Denver. He has served as an advisor on oil and gas issues for USAID and the State Department, working in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Algeria, China, and Russia. Gene holds B.S. and M.S. in geology and received his Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Illinois.

Dr. John "Jack" W. Hess is the Executive Director of the Geological Society of America. Before joining GSA, he was the Executive Director of the Division of Hydrologic Sciences and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Desert Research Institute in Nevada and served as a Congressional Science Fellow in the office of Senator Harry Reid (D-NV). Jack is an expert in karst and arid zone hydrology and has worked in the United States, the Middle East, Africa, South America, and England. He holds a bachelors and doctorate in Geology from The Pennsylvania State University.

Dr. Donald Wilhite directs the National Drought Mitigation Center, which he founded in1995. Dr. Wilhite is a professor in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he has been on the faculty since 1977. His research centers on drought management, monitoring, and preparedness, the policy implications of climate variability and climate change, and the effects of climate on society and societal responses to extreme climate events, particularly drought. He has also helped developing and developed countries to establish drought preparedness plans. Wilhite received his master's degree in geography from Arizona State University and his doctorate degree in climatology and water resources from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln.

Mr. David Witter is a member of the senior executive team at the El Dorado Irrigation District and currently serves as the Department Head of Environmental Compliance and Water Policy. He has been at El Dorado Irrigation District for over seventeen years serving in a number of executive and senior management positions. In his position, he is responsible for water rights, federal water contracts, water supply development, drought preparedness planning, climate change response, watershed management and intergovernmental relations. Prior to his tenure at El Dorado Irrigation District, David served as City Manager for two full service cities in California. He also holds a Masters Degree in Public Administration.


Geological Society of America (GSA)
Congressional Hazards Caucus Alliance