Frequently Asked Questions

Drought Response Program Overview

Q. What are the objectives for the Drought Program?
A. The objective of the Drought Response Program is to support a proactive approach to drought through three different funding categories: Emergency Drought Response, Drought Contingency Planning, and Drought Resiliency Projects. Emergency response actions may include funding for the construction of temporary facilities, including hauling water and drilling wells. Drought Contingency Planning offers financial assistance for applicants to develop a drought contingency plan or to update an existing plan, including consideration of climate change information and to take actions that will build long-term resiliency to drought. Drought Resiliency Projects are intended to mitigate the impacts of drought in advance of a crisis and emergency response.

Drought Emergency Response

Q. What are emergency response actions?
A. They include temporary construction activities and other actions and other non-construction actions, including water purchases and use of Reclamation facilities to convey and store water, for example. (Funding to drill wells will be considered only under the Drought Resiliency Projects FOA).

Q. When are Drought Emergency Response Funding Opportunities announced?
A. Unlike the Drought Resiliency Projects and Drought Contingency Planning, the Drought Emergency Response program will accept applications year-round.

Q. Who is eligible to apply?
A: To be eligible, entities must be within a State or Tribe that has a current declaration of drought, or which has a drought plan on file with Congress.

Drought Contingency Planning

Q. What is drought contingency planning?
A. Drought contingency planning is defined by the National Drought Mitigation Center as "actions taken by individual citizens, industry, government, and others before drought occurs to reduce or mitigate impacts and conflicts arising from drought.” The drought contingency planning process is structured to address the three following questions:

  • How will we recognize the next drought in the early stages?
  • How will drought affect us?
  • How can we protect ourselves from the next drought?

Q. How will funding for drought contingency planning be allocated?
A. Reclamation will provide financial assistance on a competitive basis for applicants to develop a drought contingency plan or to update an existing plan. Applicants may request up to $200,000 in Federal funding per plan or plan update.

Q. Is a non-Federal cost share required for contingency plans?
A: Yes, a 50% non-Federal cost share contribution is required (including non-Federal funds, donations, contributions, and/or in-kind services). In limited cases, a cost-share reduction or waiver may be granted. Also, funds received by a Tribe under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, P.L. 93-638, may be used to meet the cost share requirement.

Q. What are the requirements for completing a drought contingency plan under the program?
A: Plans must address six required elements, including: (1) Drought monitoring; (2) vulnerability assessment, including consideration of climate change impacts; (3) mitigation actions; (3) response actions; (5) operational and administrative framework; and (6) plan update process. For more information about the requirements for drought contingency plans, please see section I.C. of the FOA.

Drought Resiliency Program

Q. How much funding is available for FY 2023 Drought Resiliency Projects?
A. This NOFO will allocate available program funds including fiscal year (FY) 2023 enacted appropriations for WaterSMART Grants and funding available under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), P.L. 117-58 in FY 2022 or FY 2023. The amount of funding available for awards under this NOFO will depend on the demand for funding under this and other categories of WaterSMART Grants. Any awards are subject to a determination by Reclamation that FY 2023 appropriations and/or FY 2022 or FY 2023 BIL funds are available. Updated funding information is available at

This year, Reclamation will award projects in three Funding Groups:

Funding Group I: Up to $500,000 in Federal funds provided through this Funding Opportunity will be available for smaller on-the-ground projects.

Funding Group II: Up to $2,000,000 in Federal funds will be available for larger, phased on-the-ground projects that may take up to 3 years to complete.

Funding Group III: Up to $5,000,000 in Federal funds will be available for larger, phased on-the-ground projects that may take up to 3 years to complete.

It is expected that the majority of awards will be made for projects in Funding Group I compared to projects in Funding Group II and Funding Group III.

Q. How much funding may any one applicant receive under the FY 2023 Drought Resiliency Projects Funding Opportunity?
A. No more than $5,000,000 in total funds will be awarded to any single applicant under this Funding Opportunity per fiscal year (i.e., an applicant may receive up to $5.0M in FY 2023 funds.

Please note: Category A applicants are limited to a total of $5,000,000 in Federal funding through FY 2023 NOFOs for Water and Energy Efficiency Grants, Drought Resiliency Projects, and Environmental Water Resources Projects. For example, a Category A applicant may receive $3,000,000 through the FY 2023 Water and Energy Efficiency Grant NOFO and $2,000,000 through the FY 2023 Drought Resiliency Projects NOFO, for a total of $5,000,000 in Federal funding. However, if a Category A applicant receives $5,000,000 through the FY 2023 Water and Energy Efficiency Grant NOFO, then it would be precluded from seeking additional funding through FY 2023 NOFOs for either Drought Resiliency Projects or Environmental Water Resources Projects. This limitation does not apply to Category B applicants, who may be considered for multiple awards of up to $5,000,000 per project if the Category A partners are different.


Q. Who is eligible to apply for Drought Resiliency Projects funding?
A.Under P.L. 111-11 §9502, applicants eligible to receive an award under this Funding Opportunity include:

Category A applications:

  • States, Tribes, irrigation districts, and water districts;
  • State, regional, or local authorities, the members of which include one or more organizations with water or power delivery authority; and
  • Other organizations with water or power delivery authority.

All Category A applicants must also be located in one of the following States or Territories: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

Category B applications:

  • Nonprofit conservation organizations that are acting in partnership with, and with the agreement of, an entity described in Category A. Category B applicants must include with their application a letter from the Category A partner, stating that they are acting in partnership with the applicant and agree to the submittal and content of the proposal.

All Category B applicants must be located in the United States or the specific Territories identified above.

Q. What is the performance period for proposals that are funded by the Drought Resiliency Projects program?
A. In general, projects funded under Funding Group I should be completed within 2 years of award; projects funded under Funding Group II and Funding Group III should be completed within 3 years of award. Please note it takes about 1 year between the closure of the Funding Opportunity and the award of financial assistance, upon which time the 2-3 year completion period will begin.

Q. Do I need a drought contingency plan?
A. No, however, to be competitive, you must demonstrate that your proposed project is supported by an existing drought contingency plan. This may include a drought plan prepared by someone other than the applicant (e.g., an existing State, county, or municipal plan), so long as it relates to the project location. The program has funded projects without contingency plans, but identifying one in the application will make the application more competitive.

Proposal Development and Selection Process

Q. Will Reclamation advise a potential applicant on the merits of its proposed project?
A. Reclamation will not pre-screen, validate, or otherwise discuss the substantive aspects of a proposal. It is up to the applicant to determine whether a proposal aligns with the objectives and criteria of the grant. However, potential applicants are welcome to reach out with a basic summary of their proposed project to determine eligibility.

Q. How do I determine which Funding Opportunity is the best fit for a proposed project?

Other related WaterSMART Funding Opportunities:

Water and Energy Efficiency Grants: Through WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants (formerly Challenge Grants) Reclamation provides 50/50 cost share funding to irrigation and water districts, tribes, states and other entities with water or power delivery authority. Projects conserve and use water more efficiently; increase the production of hydropower; mitigate conflict risk in areas at a high risk of future water conflict; and accomplish other benefits that contribute to water supply reliability in the western United States.

Environmental Water Resources Projects: Reclamation is introducing a new category of funding under WaterSMART in FY 2022: Environmental Water Resources Projects. Funding will be provided to support projects focused on environmental benefits and that have been developed as part of a collaborative process to help carry out an established strategy to increase the reliability of water resources. Projects under this new category of funding may be eligible for up to 75% Federal funding. Eligible projects include water conservation and efficiency projects that result in quantifiable and sustained water savings and benefit ecological values, water management or infrastructure improvements to mitigate drought-related impacts to ecological values, and watershed management or restoration projects benefitting ecological values that have a nexus to water resources or water resources management.

Small-Scale Storage: A newly established grant program as of 2022, authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, promotes the implementation of small surface storage, groundwater storage, and conveyance projects that will enhance water storage opportunities. Projects must have a storage capacity of not less than 2,000 acre-feet and not more than 30,000 acre-feet. Reclamation will provide financial assistance for projects that, when implemented, will increase water supply reliability, improve operational flexibility, and enhance climate resiliency of water and related infrastructure throughout the 17 western states, Alaska, and Hawaii. Please Note the Small Storage Program is not part of the WaterSMART Program. Please visit the Small-Scale Storage for contact information regarding this program.

Q. May an applicant that received funding last year submit a new proposal in FY 2023?
A. Yes, so long as the new proposal is not for the same work funded the prior year.

Q. If I submitted a proposal for funding in previous years that was not selected for funding, can I re-submit that proposal?
A. Yes. However, it is recommended that you review the latest Funding Opportunity Announcement and related guidance to ensure that your proposal meets the mandatory requirements and program objectives, including the evaluation criteria. Grading Criterias are subject to change between FY Funding Opportunity Announcements.

Q. Can I submit more than one proposal per Drought Resiliency Program Funding Opportunity?
A. Yes. Multiple applications for funding may be submitted for consideration (for example, an applicant may submit a proposal for funding under Funding Group I, and a separate proposal under Funding Group II or Funding Group III); however, no more than $5,000,000 per FY in Federal funding will be awarded to any one applicant. In addition, each proposal will be reviewed and evaluated on its own individual merits, separate of other proposals.

Cost-Share Requirements

Q. Will proposals with less than 50% cost share be considered?
A. No. Under this Funding Opportunity, Applicants must provide at least 50% of the total project costs from non-Federal sources, either in cash or as in-kind contributions. Applications submitted under the Environmental Water Resources Projects Funding Opportunity that are focused on environmental benefits and that meet other requirements may be eligible for up to 75% Federal funding.

Note: this cost-sharing requirement is not applicable to American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, or the Virgin Islands.

Q. Can costs incurred prior to grant award be counted towards the recipient's cost share?
A. Project pre-award costs that have been incurred prior to the date of award may be submitted for consideration as an allowable reimbursable expense. In no case will pre-award costs incurred prior to April 01, 2022, be considered for cost share purposes. Note: Ground disturbing activities, including any construction or installation activities, may not occur until environmental compliance is complete and a notice to proceed is issued.

Q. How should the recipient plan for Environmental and Cultural Resources compliance costs?
A. Every project funded under this program will have environmental and cultural resources compliance activities undertaken by Reclamation and the recipient. Depending on the potential impacts of the project, Reclamation may be able to complete its compliance activities without additional cost to the recipient. Where environmental or cultural resources compliance requires significant participation by Reclamation, costs incurred by Reclamation will be added as a line item to the budget during development of the financial assistance agreement and cost shared accordingly (i.e., withheld from the Federal award amount). Any costs to the recipient associated with compliance will be identified during the process of developing a final project budget for inclusion in the financial assistance agreement.

Q. Can an applicant use funding provided under the American Rescue Plan Act as cost-share?
A. In general, yes, funding provided to states, U.S. territories, and Tribal governments under the American Rescue Plan Act (42 USC §802(c) and 42 USC §803(c)) may be counted toward non-Federal cost-share requirements for WaterSmart and similar Reclamation grant programs. Each Notice of Funding Opportunity describes other requirements applicable to all cost-share contributions. Please contact program staff if you would like to discuss further.

Last Updated: 10/27/22