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Western Governors to Review Drought's Energy Impact

The Western Governors' Association (WGA) on Thursday launched a regional drought forum to examine the lingering impacts of the acute western dry spell on four major areas.

The first in a series of four meetings will begin with the examination of the impact on energy development Sept. 18-19 in Norman, OK, and conclude with sessions on water supplies Dec. 8-9 in Las Vegas.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, WGA chairman, outlined the regional initiative's first four meetings and the rollout of an online resource library to collect case studies and best practices, calling the effort his primary initiative as the group's head this year. Sandoval said the WGA drought forum aims at fostering "a regional dialogue in which states and industry can share best practices on drought policy, preparedness and management."

In addition to the energy and water supply meetings, there will be a two-day session on the impacts on the manufacturing, mining and industrial sectors in Tempe, AZ, Oct. 7-8, and another on agriculture in Sacramento, CA, Nov. 13-14.

The drought forum is being run in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and will help establish an online clearinghouse with information on best practices, case studies and news about drought, WGA said.

Meeting participants will identify ways to avoid and mitigate the impact of drought on communities, economies and the environment. Each meeting will feature experts from government, industry and other arenas.

Sandoval made the announcement at Lahontan Reservoir in Nevada, where low lake levels caused by extended drought conditions have forced the closing of all boat launches. As a result, the Lahontan State Recreation Area has seen a 75% decrease in visitors and a 70% decrease in revenue during the past three years.

"The impact of drought in the West is clear to everyone here today," Sandoval said. "But it extends far beyond what's happened at Lahontan Reservoir."

He said California is experiencing 'exceptional drought', the most severe measurement reported by the U.S. Drought Monitor. And 'extreme drought' conditions continue in much of Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Sandoval said WGA has launched a drought forum online resource library, a collection of best practices, case studies and current events about drought. It will also offer links to a other resources, such as state drought plans and current conditions in the West as reported by the U.S. Drought Portal.

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