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Western States Join Federal Partnership to Tackle Drought


Friday, March 25, 2016   

DENVER - The Obama Administration is calling for national coordinated action to address the growing threats to food supplies and local economies from widespread drought.

James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, is also Gov. John Hickenlooper's representative for the Colorado and Arkansas Rivers. He says western states experiencing a 16-year drought can use the help.

"We're seeing the effects of drought on an annual basis, if not a monthly and daily basis," says Eklund. "And so, we've got to make sure we're addressing what can be summarized as a natural disaster that just moves very, very slowly."

A memo sent this week outlined the need for coordinated action, part of the first White House National Water Summit in the nation's capital.

The event officially launched the National Drought Resilience Partnership, a multi-agency program rolled out as part of the administration's climate-change agenda.

Eklund notes Gov. Hickenlooper, as chair of the Western Governors Association, helped lead the charge to coordinate state work on water with federal agencies.

Eklund says those efforts shaped the new plan that will help some 13 agencies, including the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency, pool their resources to focus on drought.

"To date, they've been largely siloed; they don't work together, especially to tackle drought," he says. "And what this memo signals is a willingness to really look at making sure that they're coordinated."

Eklund says Colorado's priority going forward is to intensify water conservation efforts.

He says by deploying cutting-edge technologies, it isn't "pie in the sky" for the state to save 400,000-acre-feet of water by the year 2035 through conservation alone.

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