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Emergency Operations

Media Queries?

Media inquiries regarding USACE's role in the drought can be directed to 202-761-1808.

2014 Drought

Drought is a weather phenomenon caused by an extended period of months or years when a region experiences a deficiency in its surface or underground water supply, generally occurring when a region receives consistently below average precipitation.

USACE Role in Drought
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers services 41 states with ports and waterways. Navigation is one of USACE’s civil works missions. Nearly 25,000 miles are operated and maintained by USACE for commercial navigation.  During this  drought season, USACE has published guidance to coordinate a collective Common Operating Picture to monitor ongoing impacts on navigation, identified critical river gages as key monitors for navigation, and  implemented Waterway Action Plans. In addition, USACE employs designated assets, such as dredges and survey boats, to prevent and mitigate impacts to navigation and critical works infrastructure. As drought conditions persist, USACE cautions swimmers and boaters to watch for hazards, such as trees or rocks, which may be exposed or closer to the water surface due to lower lake levels. With waters lower than the traditional pools at most USACE lakes, it is imperative that visitors do not jump or dive into the water and that everyone wears a life jacket when recreating in or near the water.

Response to California Drought

  • USACE is helping to coordinate the federal drought response and is working closely with its Federal Partners, the State of California, local governments, the agriculture industry and other partners to improve community preparedness and resilience.
  • The on-going drought prevents the ground water aquifer and reservoirs from recharging; however, USACE is using all available mitigation measures allowed under its operating authorities.
  • The Corps has been operating in a drought conservation mode for some time.
  • Most of the Corps’ dams in this area are normally “dry” flood risk management structures; however, the Corps sought and received waivers to deviate from Congressionally-approved water control plans in order to safely increase storage capacity above authorized levels.

Emergency Water Assistance Due to Drought


  • USACE may provide temporary emergency water assistance for human consumption/usage to a drought distressed area to meet minimum public health and welfare requirements.
  • USACE assistance is supplemental to state and local efforts. Long term solutions to water supply problems are the responsibility of state and local interests.

Types of Assistance

  • Transport of water to local water points,
  • Distribution of bottled water,
  • Temporary connection of a new supply to the existing distribution system,
  • Installation of temporary filtration,
  • Use of military units with water purification/storage/ distribution capability.
  • USACE assistance for the measures listed above will be at 100 percent Federal cost,
  • Wells constructed by USACE will be paid for by the applicant.

Criteria and Conditions:

  • Governor's Request. A written request for assistance is required from the governor or his/her authorized representative.
  • An applicant submitting a request directly to USACE will be referred to the State Emergency Management Agency or equivalent office.
  • Drought Distressed Area. A drought distressed area is one that the Director of Civil Works or the Assistant Secretary of the army (Civil Works) determines to have an inadequate water supply that is causing, or is likely to cause, a substantial threat to the health and welfare of the inhabitants of the area, including the threat of damage or loss of property.
  • There must be a definable need in the immediate future that cannot be met totally by state and local actions underway or planned.
  • Where reasonable conservation measures will ensure adequate supplies to meet the need for public health and welfare, there should be no need for a detailed evaluation or assistance by USACE.
  • A credible plan for providing a long-term solution must be developed by the local and state governments and executed expeditiously. If a long-term solution is not expeditiously pursued, USACE assistance is not permitted.

Evaluating Potential Drought Distressed Areas

  • In evaluating a potential "drought distressed" area, consideration must be given to both the measurements used to define the drought and the magnitude of the impacts of the drought on the area under investigation.
  • Therefore, the investigation must indicate that a shortage of water exists, and that the shortage is severely affecting the health and welfare of a major segment of the population in the area proposed for designation as "drought distressed."

Limitations of Provision of Water

  • Water for livestock, irrigation, recreation, or commercial/industrial processing will not be provided under this authority.
  • Non-USACE Expenses. The purchase or acquisition of the water and the storage facility at the terminal point are non-USACE expenses.
  • Permanent Facility. Where the recommended option for transporting water includes a permanent facility, there must be clear justification for such an action. Costs for such a permanent facility will be borne by the public sponsor.
Availability of Surplus Water in USACE Reservoirs
  • Section 6 of the 1944 Flood Control Act (PL 78-534) provides authority to make agreements with states, municipalities, private concerns, or individuals for surplus water that may be available at any reservoir under the control of the Department of the Army.
  • When appropriate, this authority should be considered in providing emergency water assistance.

Contaminated Source Assistance

  • Under certain conditions, USACE can also provide water emergency assistance to any locality confronted with source of contaminated water causing or likely to cause substantial threat to public health.