143-355.1. Drought Management Advisory Council; drought advisories.

(a) The Department shall establish a Drought Management Advisory Council. The purposes of the Council are:

(1) To improve coordination among local, State, and federal agencies; public water systems, as defined in G.S. 130A-313(10); and water users to improve the management and mitigation of the harmful effects of drought.

(2) To provide consistent and accurate information on drought conditions in the State to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the Environmental Management Commission, the Secretary, the Environmental Review Commission, and the public.

(b) The Department shall invite each of the following organizations to designate a representative to serve on the Council:

(1) North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.

(2) State Climate Office at North Carolina State University.

(3) Public Staff of the Utilities Commission.

(4) Wildlife Resources Commission.

(5) Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

(6) Department of Commerce.

(7) Department of Public Safety.

(8) National Weather Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States Department of Commerce.

(9) United States Geological Survey of the United States Department of the Interior.

(10) United States Army Corps of Engineers.

(11) United States Department of Agriculture.

(12) Federal Emergency Management Agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security.

(b1) Representatives designated under subsection (b) of this section shall have expertise or responsibility in meteorology, groundwater 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.

(c) The Department shall also invite other agencies and organizations 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.

(d) The Department shall designate an employee of the Department to serve as Chair of the Council. The Council shall meet at least once in each calendar year in order to maintain appropriate agency readiness and participation. In addition, the Council shall meet on the call of the Chair to respond to drought conditions. The provisions of Article 33C of this Chapter apply to meetings of the Council.

(e) In order to provide accurate and consistent information to assist State agencies, local governments, and other water users in taking appropriate drought response actions, the Council may issue drought advisories that designate:

(1) Specific areas of the State in which drought conditions are impending.

(2) Specific areas of the State that are suffering from drought conditions.

(3) The level of severity of drought conditions based on the drought categories used in the U.S. Drought Monitor or the drought designation approved by the Secretary under subsection (f) of this section.

(f) Drought designations by the U.S. Drought Monitor shall be the default designations for drought advisories issued under subsection (e) of this section. The Council shall publish those drought designations for each county. If more than one drought designation applies to a county, the drought designation for the county shall be the highest drought designation that applies to at least twenty-five percent (25%) of the land area of the county. The Council may recommend a drought designation for a county that is different from the designation based on the U.S. Drought Monitor if the U.S. Drought Monitor does not accurately reflect localized conditions because of differences in scale or because the U.S. Drought Monitor does not consider one or more of the indicators of drought identified in this subsection. In recommending a drought designation that differs from the U.S. Drought Monitor designation, the Council shall 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.

(f1) The Secretary shall accept the Council's recommendation to adopt a drought designation for a county that is different from the designation based on the U.S. Drought Monitor if the Secretary finds that the indicators of drought identified by the Council under subsection (f) of this section support the designation recommended by the Council.

(g) The Council shall report on the implementation of this section to the Secretary, the Governor, and the Environmental Review Commission no later than 1 October of each year. The report shall include 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 to improve the management and mitigation of the harmful effects of drought. (2003-387, s. 2; 2004-195, s. 2.5; 2008-143, s. 16; 2011-145, s. 19.1(g).)