Governors Call for Federal Drought Agency

A five year drought grips Colorado (search) and most of the nation’s western half, though you wouldn’t know it by taking a look out any window in the area.

“It’s hard to predict when they begin, it’s hard to predict how long they’ll last,” said Greg McCabe, a U.S. geological survey researcher.

The National Drought Mitigation Center (search) estimates the economic impact of drought averages about $6 to $8 billion annually, which is about equivalent to the amount of money spent on floods and hurricanes combined.

However, unlike other natural disasters, droughts have no independent federal response team to react. For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA (search) oversees disasters like hurricanes, but because droughts impact a variety of industries — from farming to tourism — there is no single responder.

Because of this governors from 18 western states are pushing for legislation to assign a lead federal agency to find solutions to a problem that devastates both agriculture and water supplies.

“We don't have that infrastructure in place to anticipate droughts so that as they onset we can react," said Shaun McGrath, program manager of the Western Governor's Association. “In contrast though … these other natural disasters have a national drought or national policies which coordinates the federal response when those disasters happen."

Unlike the immediate damage caused by other disasters, droughts are less obvious.

Researchers may be close to finding answers about the phenomenon. New research is in the works and scientists have recently discovered a possible connection between the warming of the northern Atlantic Ocean (search) and drought.

Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Alicia Acuna.