At Drought Hearing, Senators Worry National Weather Service Funding Will Dry Up

2019-08-29T08:50:17+00:00 August 7, 2017|
Photo credit: Jacmac34/Pixbay

Photo credit: Jacmac34/Pixbay

What It Was

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing “to examine increasing water security and drought preparedness through infrastructure, management, and innovation.”

Why It Matters

Dry weather continues to be problematic for Western states, and climate change predictions indicate droughts will only worsen. The president’s budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 proposes funding cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) by 16 percent – and the proposed four percent decrease to the agency’s National Weather Service would challenge the program. The National Weather Service plays a crucial role in understanding drought patterns, preparing communities for limited water availability, and helping scientists understand the changing climate. Stakeholders say forecasting research and technology innovations are key to future preparedness.

Key Points

Senators from both sides of the aisle shared their concern with President Trump’s proposed FY 2018 cuts to NOAA.

Ranking Member Angus King (ME) and Senator Al Franken (MN) advocated for increased NOAA research and technology investments to fight water scarcity.

Senator Franken asked Ms. Shirlee Zane (Chairwoman of the Board, Sonoma County Water Agency) “What can the federal government do to help communities prepare water infrastructure for a changing climate?” Her answer: better weather monitoring.

Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Flake (AZ) wants to explore private-sector partnerships and renewable energy to lower costs and combat water shortages. Private companies are using renewables, but Mr. Carlos Riva (President and CEO, Poseidon Water, LLC) explained that water storage can be a limiting factor.


“What bothers me is the budget recently submitted by the administration…. We need better data to better manage [water], and we also need better data to make better policy.” – Ranking Member King

“Forecasting beyond 10 to 14 days is unreliable.” Weather prediction “remains crucial for managing infrastructure.” “Technology and research are the way to go and are the foundation of preparedness.” – Ms. Zane

“A lot of times when water recycling is talked about, it is talked about with a request for the federal government to build a plant. In Arizona, we have a number of these projects that do not require federal funds.” – Chairman Jeff Flake (AZ)

Next Steps

Congress is in the middle of the appropriations process, which will need to be completed by September 30 (or a short-term continuing resolution set in place) to keep the government operating. Both congressional chambers must reconcile the differences in conference, as the House proposed a steep 13 percent decrease to NOAA compared to the Senate’s 1.5 percent cut, although both place priority on weather forecasting.

Find Out More

Watch the full hearing

Witness statements:

  • Tom Buschatzke (Director, Arizona Department of Water Resources)
  • Heiner Markhoff (President and CEO, GE Power – Water & Process Technologies)
  • Carlos Riva (President and CEO, Poseidon Water, LLC)
  • Martha Sheils (Director, New England Environmental Finance Center, University of Southern Maine)
  • Shirlee Zane (Chairwoman of the Board, Sonoma County Water Agency)

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