Have you ever driven by a lake and noticed the water levels were concerningly low? That area was likely going through a drought. So what can you do to prepare?
Many of us take water for granted and don’t stop to think that our supplies could dry up.
The idea of waking up one morning to no running water seems silly, but it’s very real.
In 2018, South Africa’s water shortage became so severe that the government warned the public of day zero –the day taps would be turned off.
Luckily, new water conservation tactics were implemented, and day zero is no longer looming over the country.
But shouldn’t we be prepared for droughts before they happen?
Shouldn’t we take steps now to keep our water supplies healthy?
I put this article together to help you better understand droughts, what you can do to prepare, and what you should do while living through one.
If you want to amplify the reading experience, fill up a glass of water and set it next to your desk.
By the end of the article, you’ll appreciate it a whole lot more.
1. What is a Drought?
A drought is a period when an area receives abnormally low levels of precipitation.
The reduction of rain or snow reduces the amount of moisture in the soil, damaging crops, and causes water supplies to dry up, forcing humans and animals to find other sources.
Droughts can last for a few weeks to a few years.
The longer the drought, the more dangerous it is.
Towns and cities rely on water reserves to survive, and if those dry up, well, the results could be catastrophic.
2. Can Droughts Happen Naturally?
Droughts are a normal part of nature, believe it or not.
For as long as Earth has been around, precipitation levels have ebbed and flowed throughout the world.
The problem is that massive cities require enormous amounts of water to function all the time.
Researchers have been warning countries for decades that climate change could trigger more extreme weather patterns, leading to longer and more dangerous seasons of droughts.
3. Where Are Droughts Most Common?
Droughts can happen anywhere.
Even an area that receives regular rainfall can technically be in a drought if rain levels are below average.
You mostly hear about droughts in dry places because that’s where the most problems are.
Los Angeles, California, for example, is hot, dry, and far away from a reliable water source, causing droughts to have serious impacts on the people living there.
Portland, Oregon, on the other hand, could receive 20% less rain, and the people living there might not even realize it (however, that’s not to say that a prolonged drought in Oregon wouldn’t impact the state).
Below are the states most vulnerable to droughts:
Notice any similarities in that list?
The states are either home to dry deserts or dry plains.
So, just remember that droughts can happen anywhere, but the drier regions are the most vulnerable.
4. How Can We Increase Water Efficiency to prepare for a drought?
If you want to know how to prepare for a drought, then you need to know how to increase your water efficiency.
The best way to prepare is to make your home as water-efficient as possible.
Using less water will contribute to the greater cause, and if water restrictions are ever put into place, your home will be ready.
So, let’s take a look at a handful of changes we can make.
New Water Efficient Appliances
Toilets and dishwashers use up a shocking amount of water.
In fact, some older toilets use six gallons of water for a single flush–that’s a problem.
Switching out old toilets and dishwashers for new water-efficient options will greatly cut back your water usage and make your home much more water efficient.
Reduce Water Flow
Install a low-flow showerhead to reduce water flow.
Normal shower heads use around 2.5 gallons per minute, while a low-flow option uses less than 1.5 gallons per minute.
If you take a 20-minute shower, you’ll save at least 20 gallons of water.
Additionally, you can install aerators with flow restrictors (small screens) on sink faucets to also help reduce water flow.
Checking for Leaks
Even a small, seemingly harmless leak can waste huge amounts of water.
You can identify internal leaks by keeping an eye on your water bill.
A sudden spike in price may be caused by a faulty pipe.
Another good habit to get into is checking for leaks under sinks and around toilets.
Lastly, periodically put dye in the tank of your toilets to see if water is leaking into the bowl, which would be a sign that an internal part needs to be looked at.
5. What Consumes the Most Water in a Home?
You may not be surprised to learn that outdoor watering accounts for most of a home’s water usage.
But what about indoor usage?
Well, it turns out toilets are the biggest culprits of water usage inside.
As we addressed in the above section, older toilets can use up to six gallons per flush.
If each person in a family of four used the bathroom three times per day, that would add up to as much as 84 gallons of water.
When you take a bath, you usually use about 30 gallons of water, which means the family of four would need three bathtubs of water every day to flush their toilets.
That’s why it’s crucial to upgrade to a newer, water-efficient toilet that only uses around a gallon of water per flush.
6. How Much Water Should you prepare for a drought?
If your water supply were cut off right now, how long would the water in your house last?
So many of us have grown dependent on always having running water that we forget that emergencies can happen.
Storing water is an excellent strategy to keep you and your family safe in the case of several different circumstances.
The CDC recommends that you store a minimum of one gallon per person for three days.
If you’re new to storing water, three days is a good first goal, but building up to a two-week supply would be the best case scenario.
Keep in mind that stored water should be replaced around every six months and that the supply should be kept out of sunlight in a cool space.
7. What Do You Eat During a Drought?
Whether you’re eating meat or produce, it takes a lot of water to put food on the table.
Before a drought occurs, you can take part in water conservation by choosing options that don’t use as much water.
The meat and dairy industry uses the highest amount of water, so consider cutting back on your weekly meat consumption.
Click here to see how much water is used to produce some of the most commonly used foods.
During a severe drought, you’ll want to use as little water as possible.
Avoid cooking meals that require a lot of water, such as pasta, and choose to roast vegetables in the oven instead of steaming them.
Droughts may lead to shortages of certain foods or price increases, so shop mindfully.
8. How can I prepare my lawn for a drought?
Knowing how to prepare for a drought means you need to know the best way to cut your grass to make sure you still have the nicest lawn in the neighborhood.
At the beginning of a drought, or a dry season, cut your grass longer than you normally would.
The extra length will shade the area, keep moisture in the ground, and prevent heat damage.
Grass won’t grow as quickly during a drought, so don’t worry about having to make frequent cuts.
Make sure to cut the grass without the mower bag attached.
Leaving the clippings on the lawn will act as another layer of protection, keeping as much water in the soil as possible.
As the season gets dryer and hotter, don’t be surprised if your yard seemingly stops growing; this is normal.
However, if you really want to prepare for a drought and conserve water, the best thing you can do is get rid of your lawn altogether!
Plant drought-resistant plants or a xeriscape garden instead.
9. What can be done to prepare my garden for a drought?
Keeping your garden alive during a drought takes effort, but it can be done.
Adding mulch to your trees and plants is an excellent way to retain moisture in the soil.
Just be careful not to use too much or too little.
Piling on too much can restrict oxygen and lead to an excess of moisture, and not applying enough will leave roots unprotected and cause moisture to evaporate.
Keep an eye on the health of the trees in your garden and ensure they’re getting enough water; they are an integral part of your yard’s micro-ecosystem and provide shade to surrounding plants and animals.
Water your plants at night instead of during the day.
Watering after the heat of the day has passed means not as much moisture will evaporate, which is good for your plants and your water usage levels.
10. Should I Fertilize Plants During a Drought?
Fertilizing plants should be avoided during a drought.
Well, fertilizer promotes growth, and growth demands water–not ideal for a drought.
Additionally, if fertilizer is used while there’s not much moisture in the soil, it can lead to burns on the roots.
So, when the dry season rolls around and you notice your plants are growing at a slower rate, remind yourself that it is normal.
Once the weather cools down and more moisture is in the soil, everything will go back to its standard growth rate.
Until then, keep an eye on certain plants that don’t appear to be thriving.
You may need to add more mulch to ensure the soil is retaining water and the roots have a chance to hydrate.
11. Can You Shower During a Drought?
Showering is an important part of our lives.
When a drought occurs, it’s, of course, okay to take a shower, but you should make a few changes.
Limit your shower time to two to three minutes.
If you’re using a low-flow showerhead, one shower would only use three to five gallons of water.
Avoid taking baths during a drought.
An average bath requires about 30 gallons of water, which is a heck of a lot more than a two-minute shower.
Take your water conservation to the next level by placing a bucket inside your shower.
Stand in it while you wash and use the collected gray water to water plants.
It’s a great habit to get into, even when there’s not a drought!
12. Will We Ever Run out of Drinking Water?
Only about 2.5% of Earth’s total water is freshwater.
The rest of it is ocean water.
Luckily, water doesn’t leave the planet.
Even when it’s consumed, it will eventually evaporate and fall back down as rain.
So, we will never run out of water, but that doesn’t mean there’s plenty of drinkable water to go around.
It is possible that certain areas will run out of drinking water due to prolonged droughts, which was almost the case in South Africa in 2018.
Another issue is a lack of clean water.
Usually, remote villages are most impacted by this reality, and the people are forced to walk miles and miles each day just to reach a source of decent water.
So, the next time you walk to your fridge to pull out a cold bottle of water, remind yourself how good you have it and why it’s so important to conserve water.
13. How Long Does It Take to Get out of a Drought?
Droughts are unpredictable because weather patterns are unpredictable.
Sure, we can forecast what the temperature is going to be like for the next 10 days, but knowing what’s going to happen next year is impossible.
When a drought occurs, it can last weeks, months, or years.
Sometimes they are so insignificant that the average person wouldn’t even notice it was happening.
Other times, they are so severe that a region’s water usage has to be restricted.
If you live in a dry area, it’s important to be a step ahead of potential droughts.
Residents should live their lives as if the water supply could be depleted at any minute.
14. Are Droughts Getting Worse?
Unfortunately, it appears droughts are getting worse.
Experts are pointing their fingers at human activity exacerbating climate change, leading to worsening conditions.
The government of the United States has reported that droughts are becoming longer and more intense.
In fact, starting in 2000, the country has seen some of the worst and driest conditions.
The bad news is that it appears this is our new reality for the foreseeable future.
This is why we all need to prepare for upcoming droughts.
So, do you feel like you know how to prepare for a drought?
Water is our lifeline; without it, the party is over.
Some of the best ways to use less water are to update your toilets and dishwashers, reduce water flow from sinks and showers, keep an eye out for leaks, and replace your lawn.
There’s no reason to not adopt water-conscious habits even if your region is not at high risk of droughts.
Additional ResourcesIf you are looking to buy affordable land, you can check out our Listings page. And before you buy land, make sure you check out Gokce Land Due Diligence Program. If you are looking to sell land, visit our page on how to Sell Your Land.
Would you like to receive an email with our latest blog/properties every Thursday?
Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants, or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.