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US Army Corps of Engineers
Southwestern Division Website

Southwestern Region Drought

Impact on USACE Reservoirs in Southwestern Division (SWD)

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.   This webpage serves as a portal for communicating drought conditions and impacts at USACE SWD reservoirs. 

Within USACE Southwestern Division, there are 74 multi-purpose reservoirs designed to meet the needs of water supply users, navigation, hydropower, recreation, and fish and wildlife habitat.  Since 2011, reservoirs within the Corps of Engineer’s Southwestern Region have been impacted by drought conditions.   The map below illustrates USACE SWD reservoirs in which lake elevations have been reduced.   Typical activities associated with each drought response designation are listed here: USACE Drought Response Actions.


 The Corps of Engineers has continued its efforts within existing authorities to mitigate the drought’s effects in its management of water resources to ensure its projects continue to fulfill their multiple authorized purposes, to include navigation, water supply, recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, and environmental purposes.  In addition, USACE has drought related authorities related to emergency water supply (Public Law 84-99) http://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/EmergencyOperations/Drought.aspx.

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.