The North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council that originated in 1992 was given official statutory status and assigned the responsibility for issuing drought advisories in 2003. The drought advisories provide accurate and consistent information to assist local governments and other water users in taking appropriate drought response actions in specific areas of the state that are exhibiting impending or existing drought conditions.
The Drought Monitoring Council was an interagency coordination and information exchange body created in 1992. In 2002, the council did a creditable job monitoring and coordinating drought responses, while increasing public awareness of the council's function and effectiveness. The General Assembly recognized the Drought Monitoring Council's leadership and performance by giving them an official statutory base and changed its name to the Drought Management Advisory Council (DMAC) to reflect the broader role of the council, which extends beyond monitoring drought conditions.
Following the 2002 drought, the North Carolina General Assembly passed Session Law 2002-167 , which compelled the EMC to develop and implement rules governing water supply planning, water conservation and water reuse during drought and other water emergency situations for water supply systems, and other water users.
On July 17, 2003, North Carolina General Statute 143.355.1 was ratified to assign the DMAC an important new role. A number of local governments indicated that it would be helpful to have official, objective drought status advisories to give them a reliable basis for their management responses. The new statute assigned this new advisory role to the DMAC and also specified that drought advisories are to be based on technical data to address varying conditions throughout the state. The new system avoids the problems that some states have experienced in declaring drought warnings statewide, when conditions did not warrant it in all regions of the state, by tailoring advisories to local conditions. When determining the issuance of a drought advisory, the Council takes into account stream flows, ground water levels, the amount of water stored in reservoirs, weather forecasts, the time of year, and other relevant factors for assessing the location and severity of drought conditions.
The intent of the new statute is for the DMAC to continue with essentially the same membership and functions that the Drought Monitoring Council previously exercised, but with new statutory authority and a new responsibility for providing a system of localized drought assessment and to issue advisories when needed. Importantly, the operation of the DMAC continues to carry on the same role as the Drought Monitoring Council did in support of the North Carolina Emergency Operations Plan and the activation of the Drought Assessment and Response Plan.
The General Assembly amended the statute in 2004, requiring the Council to submit an activities report to the Secretary, the Governor, and the Environmental Review Commission by October 1st of each year. The report includes a review of drought advisories issued by the Council and any recommendations to improve coordination among local, State, and federal agencies; public water systems; and water users. The purpose of the report is to continue to identify areas for improving the management and mitigation of the harmful effects of drought. (2003-387, s. 2; 2004-195, s. 2.5)
Given this authority, in 2007, the EMC adopted 15A NCAC 02E.0600 – Water Use During Drought Rules. These Administrative Rules set forth requirements for specific water use reduction reporting during drought, water shortage response planning, and default water use reduction measures for community water systems failing to meet planning requirements. These rules were codified in early 2008, as much of the state was coming out of the drought of record, and a few months later, the General Assembly passed Session Law 2008-143. It made implementation of water shortage response plans mandatory for water systems and provided DENR with approval and oversight authority. It also included added detail about members and participants in the work of the DMAC. The Representatives designated to serve on the Council will have expertise or responsibility in meteorology, ground water and surface water hydrology, water system operation and management, reservoir management, emergency response, or another subject area related to assessment and management of drought impacts. Other agencies and organizations may be invited that represent water users, including local governments, agriculture, agribusiness, forestry, manufacturing, investor-owned water utilities regulated by the North Carolina Utilities Commission, and others as appropriate to participate in the work of the Council with respect to particular drought related issues.
Organizations invited to serve on the Council include:
- NC Cooperative Extension Service
- State Climate Office at North Carolina State University
- NC Public Staff of the Utilities Commission
- NC Wildlife Resources Commission
- NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
- NC Department of Commerce
- NC Department of Public Safety
- US National Weather Service, NOAA
- US Geological Survey
- US Army Corps of Engineers
- US Department of Agriculture
- Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Department of Homeland Security
The Chair of the Council is an employee of DEQ designated by the Department. The Council is required to meet at least once in each calendar year in order to maintain appropriate agency readiness and participation. In addition, the Council will meet on the call of the Chair to respond to drought conditions.
A main purpose of the DMAC is to provide consistent and accurate information on drought conditions in the state to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the Environmental Management Commission, the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Environmental Review Commission, and the public.
In the matter of DMAC issuing drought classification and response actions by county, SL 2008-143 requires that if the U.S. Drought Monitor of North Carolina shows more than one drought designation in a county, the drought classification for the county is the highest drought designation that applies to at least twenty five percent (25%) of the land area of the county. Drought response actions are based on the drought classification for each county within a drought area that is listed each Thursday on the DMAC Website.
The law states that the council may recommend to the secretary a drought designation for a county that is different from the designation based on the U.S. Drought Monitor of North Carolina if the depiction of drought does not accurately reflect localized conditions. In recommending a drought designation that differs from the U.S. Drought Monitor designation, the council will consider stream flows, ground water levels, the amount of water stored in reservoirs, weather forecasts, the time of year and other factors that are relevant to determining the location and severity of drought conditions.