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WaterSMART Drought Response Program: Drought Contingency Planning Grants for Fiscal Year 2018

Grants to Multiple USA States, Tribes, Agencies, and
Water Authorities to Develop Drought Response Plans

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U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, Policy and Administration

Deadline Date:

02/07/18 4:00 PM MST


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Grants to USA state agencies, tribes, water districts, and other water authorities in multiple states for the development of drought resilience strategies. Registration to apply online may take 7 to 21 days to complete. Funding may be used to develop a new drought response plan or to update an existing drought plan.

Eligible applicants are located in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and Hawaii.

Program Information:

The WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow) Program provides a framework for Federal leadership and assistance to stretch and secure water supplies for the future. Through WaterSMART, the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) leverages Federal and non-Federal funding to support stakeholder efforts to stretch scarce water supplies and avoid conflicts over water. Working together with our stakeholders, WaterSMART provides support for the Department of the Interior’s priorities, including creating a legacy of conservation stewardship, sustainably developing our energy and natural resources, modernizing our infrastructure through public-private partnerships, and restoring trust with local communities by improving relationships and communication with states, tribes, local governments, communities, landowners and water users.

Reclamation’s WaterSMART Drought Response Program supports a proactive approach to drought by providing financial assistance to water managers to: develop and update comprehensive drought plans (Drought Contingency Planning), and implement projects that will build long-term resiliency to drought (Drought Resiliency Projects). The Drought Response Program specifically contributes to the Department of the Interior’s priorities to: create a legacy of conservation stewardship, modernize our infrastructure, and restore trust with local communities by providing funding to states, tribes, and local governments to prepare for and address drought in advance of a crisis.

This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) supports the development and update of drought contingency plans that will build long-term resiliency to drought.

Objective of this Funding Opportunity Announcement:

The objective of this FOA is to invite states, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, water districts, and other organizations with water or power delivery authority to leverage their money and resources by cost sharing Drought Contingency Planning with Reclamation to build resilience to drought in advance of a crisis. Applicants under this FOA may request funding to develop a new drought plan or to update an existing drought plan (collectively, Drought Contingency Plans). Applicants may also request technical assistance from Reclamation for the development of elements of the Drought Contingency Plan (Project).

It is a well-established principle that planning for drought, in advance of a crisis, is far more cost effective than emergency response. As stated on the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) website at

“One frequently cited estimate from FEMA1 is that ‘mitigation’ – taking steps ahead of time to prevent known impacts from a natural disaster – saves $4 for every $1 expended. Planning ahead is generally seen as more efficient and more effective than measures taken in crisis mode. Drought researchers have found that after-the-fact assistance to farmers, for example, is expensive and doesn’t necessarily reach the right people.”

Through this FOA, Reclamation seeks to support collaborative planning efforts that use a proactive approach to build long-term resiliency to drought. Drought Contingency Plans developed under this program are required to include participation by multiple stakeholders to encourage more comprehensive plans that address issues important to different sectors (e.g., agricultural, municipal, industrial, and environmental). Participation by multiple stakeholders will also broaden support for mitigation and response actions identified in the plans. In addition, Drought Contingency Plans developed under this FOA must include consideration of uncertainties related to changing hydrologic conditions and the potential impacts to water supplies, in order to support long-term resiliency to drought.

Given current budget constraints and competing priorities for limited funding, Reclamation does not expect to submit recommendations to Congress for authorizing legislation or appropriations for construction following the completion of a Drought Contingency Plan. However, potential projects identified in a Drought Contingency Plan may be considered for funding under the Drought Resiliency Projects FOA, so long as the project meets all program and eligibility requirements.

In accordance with Section 204 of the Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act of 1991, a copy of plans completed by states and tribes under this FOA will be submitted to Congress.

Eligible Projects:

Proposals for the development of a new Drought Contingency Plan (Task A), or an update to an existing plan (Task B), are eligible for funding under this FOA. Drought Contingency Plans funded under this FOA must address each of the six elements described below. Plan updates may focus on only those elements that have not yet been developed in the existing plan, or that require further development or updating; however, the updated Drought Contingency Plan must address each of the six required elements. Applicants awarded funding under this FOA must also meet the required steps for conducting a plan or plan update, also described under Required Drought Contingency Planning Steps.

Required Elements to be Included in New Plans or Plan Updates:

All new Drought Contingency Plans (New Plans) must address each of the six elements described immediately below. Updates to an existing drought plan (Plan Updates) may focus on only those elements that have not yet been developed in the plan, or that require further development or updating; however completed Plan Updates must address each of these six elements. Reclamation does not prescribe any one approach to developing and addressing these elements in a New Plan or Plan Update. However, further explanation and guidance to support the development of each element is provided in the Framework, available at

The six required elements for Drought Contingency Plans developed or updated under this FOA are as follows:

1. Drought Monitoring: The drought contingency plan must establish a process for monitoring near and long-term water availability, and a framework for predicting the probability of future droughts or confirming an existing drought. This includes a process for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of water availability and other drought-related data (e.g., precipitation, temperature, and streamflow levels, among other indicators). The drought contingency plan must also explain how this data will be used to predict or confirm droughts, including identifying metrics and triggers (e.g., reservoir level reached at a specific reservoir and use of specific drought indices) that will be used to define stages of drought, to trigger mitigation or response actions, and to define the different stages or levels of severity of drought.

2. Vulnerability Assessment: The drought contingency plan must include a vulnerability assessment evaluating the risks and impacts of drought. A vulnerability assessment is an assessment of the risks to critical resources within the planning area and the factors contributing to those risks. Assessments will drive the development of potential mitigation and response actions. The assessment must be based on a range of future conditions, including uncertainties related to changing hydrologic conditions. Discretionary guidance on incorporating hydrologic risks and uncertainties into drought contingency plans is provided as an appendix to the Drought Response Program Framework. Reclamation supports the use of existing information to meet this requirement, where available, including information from Reclamation’s WaterSMART Basin Study Program, and other non-Reclamation sources.

3. Mitigation Actions: The drought contingency plan must identify, evaluate, and prioritize mitigation actions and activities that will build long-term resiliency to drought and that will mitigate the risks posed by drought. Mitigation measures are actions, programs, and strategies implemented before drought to address potential risks and impacts. These actions are outside of regular water management activities and are intended to decrease sector vulnerabilities and reduce the need for response actions.

4. Response Actions: The drought contingency plan must identify, evaluate, and prioritize response actions and activities that can be implemented during a drought to mitigate the impacts. Response actions are different than mitigation measures in that they are specific actions that are triggered during specific stages of drought to manage the limited supply and decrease the severity of immediate impacts. Response actions can be quickly implemented and provide expeditious benefits.

5. Operational and Administrative Framework: The drought contingency plan must identify who is responsible for undertaking the actions necessary to implement each element of the drought contingency plan, including communicating with the public about those actions. At a minimum, the operational and administrative framework must identify roles, responsibilities, and procedures necessary to:

-Conduct drought monitoring
-Initiate response actions, including emergency response actions
-Initiate mitigation actions
-Update the plan

The operational and administrative framework may be integrated into each element of the plan, or documented in a specific section of the plan.

6. Plan Development and Update Process: The drought contingency plan must describe the process that was undertaken to develop the plan, including how stakeholders were engaged and how input was considered. In addition, the drought contingency plan must also include a process and schedule for monitoring, evaluating, and updating the drought contingency plan.

These six required elements of a Drought Contingency Plan are based on the 10-Step Drought Planning Process developed by the NDMC, which has been applied by states, tribes, and countries around the world. Building on this approach, Reclamation has added a requirement that Drought Contingency Plans incorporate an analysis of future hydrologic conditions as part of conducting a Vulnerability Assessment.

Reclamation recognizes that there may be complementary activities in developing a New Plan or Plan Update (e.g., data gathering and developing tools and dashboards) that enhance and inform the planning process. In general, Reclamation considers these activities to be acceptable as part of the overall plan development, or plan update. However, the applicant must demonstrate the activity informs at least one of the six required elements of the Drought Contingency Plan. Activities such as piloting, or initial implementation of mitigation or response actions are not considered allowable as part of the planning process.

Required Drought Contingency Planning Steps:

Once the applicant has been informed that a proposal submitted under this FOA has been selected for funding, Reclamation will enter into a financial assistance agreement with the applicant, documenting the requirements and conditions related to the provision of financial assistance. The financial assistance agreement will require the following Drought Contingency Planning steps:

-Establishment of a Drought Planning Task Force: The non-Federal entity(s) identified to receive funding through the proposal selection process will be referred to as the planning lead. At the outset of the planning process, the planning lead will develop a Drought Planning Task Force (Task Force) made up of interested stakeholders within the planning area that want to actively participate in developing the Drought Contingency Plan. The Task Force must have diverse membership representing multiple interests in the planning area. Outreach to a diverse set of stakeholders is also required but should not be substituted for diversity on the Task Force.

-Development of a Detailed Work Plan: The detailed work plan will be developed by the planning lead in consultation with Reclamation and will describe in detail how the various tasks included in developing or updating the plan will be accomplished, along with a detailed work schedule, and the responsibilities of Reclamation (Reclamation will provide input on this element), the planning lead, the Task Force, and other interested stakeholders. The work plan must be submitted to Reclamation for review and acceptance before substantive work on the New Plan or Plan Update begins, and may be updated as conditions warrant.

-Development of a Communication and Outreach Plan: As part of the detailed work plan, the planning partners must develop a communication and outreach plan. Explanation of how stakeholders and the public will be involved in the planning process, including providing input on the drafting of the New Plan or Plan Update and providing feedback to the Task Force. Participation could occur through public meetings, webinars, public notices, and other forums or approaches.

Note, in responding to the evaluation criteria, applicants are requested to identify in their proposal an initial list of stakeholders who will be involved in support of the planning process, a plan for completing the proposed Drought Contingency Plan within the two-year time frame, and a plan for stakeholder involvement. This information will form the starting point for the establishment of a Task Force, development of a detailed work plan, and development of a communication and outreach plan if the proposal is funded.

The program requirements described here are intended to increase the transparency of the planning process, encourage collaboration and participation by interested stakeholders, and ensure that the Drought Contingency Plan will meet program requirements upon completion. Collaboration with multiple stakeholders representing diverse interests in water resources is required for Drought Contingency Plans developed under this program.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 182579

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Number of Grants:

Estimated Number of Agreements to be Awarded: Approximately 3 - 5 agreements

Estimated Size of Grant:

Up to $200,000 per agreement

Term of Contract:

Projects funded under this FOA should be completed within two years of award, including the required Reclamation review of the Drought Contingency Plan.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

An eligible applicant is a state, tribe, irrigation district, water district, or other organization with water or power delivery authority.

Applicants must also be located in the Western United States as identified in the Reclamation Act of June 17, 1902, as amended and supplemented; specifically: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and Hawaii.

Those not eligible include, but are not limited to, the following entities:
-Federal governmental entities
-Institutions of higher education

Ineligible Projects:
Proposals for the development of planning studies, other than Drought Contingency Plans, are not eligible for funding under this FOA. This includes proposals for the development of appraisal investigations, feasibility studies, special studies, Basin Studies, or studies authorized under the Title XVI Water Recycling and Reuse Program, through P.L.102-575, as amended (43 U.S.C. 390h et seq.), or under the Rural Water Program, pursuant to the Rural Water Supply Act of 2006, P.L.109-451 (

Pre-Application Information:

In general, applicants must be capable of cost sharing 50 percent or more of the total costs of the Drought Contingency Plan (also referred to as Project Costs). Applicants with sufficient resources may choose to contribute a non-Federal cost share that is greater than 50 percent in order to develop more complex plans. Cost sharing may be made through cash or in-kind contributions or donations from the applicant or third-party partners. Cost share funding from sources outside the applicant’s organization (e.g., loans or state grants) should be secured and available to the applicant prior to award.

In exceptional circumstances and upon request of the applicant, Reclamation may reduce or waive the non-Federal cost share requirement, if an overwhelming Federal interest and a significant financial need are identified. The criteria used by Reclamation to evaluate requests to reduce or waive the non-Federal cost share requirement are set forth in the Funding Opportunity Announcement (see Supporting Documents below).

If the applicant chooses to submit an electronic application, it must be submitted through

Please note that submission of an application electronically requires prior registration through, which may take 7 to 21 days.

The application due date is Wednesday February 7, 2018 at 4:00 PM Mountain Standard Time.

News Release:

View this opportunity on

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Questions regarding application and submission information and award administration may be submitted to the attention of:

Mr. Kevin Connolly, Grants Management Specialist

Bureau of Reclamation
Financial Assistance Support Section
Mail Code: 84-278514
P.O. Box 25007
Denver, CO 80225

Questions regarding applicant and project eligibility and application review may be submitted to the attention of:

Mr. Darion Mayhorn, Reclamation Drought Coordinator

Bureau of Reclamation
Water Resources and Planning Division
Mail Code: 84-51000
P.O. Box 25007
Denver, CO 80225

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URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Arizona;   California;   Colorado;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Kansas;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Mexico;   North Dakota;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   South Dakota;   Texas;   Utah;   Washington;   Wyoming