SOS Blog

Friday, April 20, 2018

All About Droughts

Nearly every part of the United States will experience a period of reduced rainfall this year. While droughts can be stressful for a number of reasons, preparedness is the key to surviving drought season. Read on to learn more about what droughts exactly are, how they affect us, and what we can do during dry times.

What is a drought?

To put it simply, a drought is a period of unusually dry conditions that results in water-related economic problems. For a farmer, a drought is a period of low rainfall that impedes growth of the crops he is cultivating. For a water manager, a drought is a water-supply deficiency period that negatively affects water availably and water quality. Droughts are usually recognized by a lack of precipitation and low streamflow.

Drought Regions 

Almost all parts of the country experience droughts at some point. To check if your hometown or state is experiencing a drought right now, you can check the University of Nebraska Drought Monitor Map here. Some states are much more likely to experience drought than others. At the top of the drought-prone list are Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Nevada and California, with Southern California especially known to have some of the worst drought conditions in the nation.

Can droughts be prevented?

Yes and no. While you obviously can’t control the weather, you can help preserve water so there’s a sufficient reserve during dry months and the stress on your area isn’t as severe. There are lots of ways to do this, but a few of our favorite tips are:
  1. Use low-volume water conservation appliances in your home. This can hugely impact things like flushing your toilet and taking a shower. Look into installing these appliances – you’ll save water for drought season and save money on your water bill.
  3. Get your home regularly checked by a plumber. Dripping adds up. A leaky faucet wastes 5 gallons of water per day, or 2,082 gallons per year. A pipe leak even the size of a pencil tip can waste 970 gallons of water in just one day, and that’s at low water pressure. Make sure you’re not wasting water with faulty appliances.
  5. Plant local plants & drought tolerant grasses. Plants that are adapted to your local climate don’t need water as frequently and can survive long dry periods. Because they’ve adapted to local conditions, they also don’t need additional care involving pesticides or fertilizers, providing a highly eco-friendly solution. 

Worst Case Scenario

We could all sit back and do nothing during drought season, but this has some serious consequences. Water scarcity means more than just shorter showers, brown grass and dirty cars. According to the United States Food and Agriculture Organization, severe drought destabilizes the food supply and threatens food availability. As a result, prices increase, livelihoods are lost, purchasing power plummets and human health is endangered. In 2015, for example, California suffered a severe drought, and over 560,000 acres of farmland went unsown as farmers had to code with water shortage. That’s a lot of food that never arrived in grocery stores.

What can I do to help?

Nobody wants to experience the devastating effects of a worst case scenario situation. Luckily, there are lots of things we can all do to help today. In addition to taking preventative measures before drought season is upon you, making small habitual changes during droughts can really help on a macro scale.

If you must wash your car, look for a commercial car wash that recycles water (they’re more common than you might think). If you have to water your lawn, do so early in the morning or late at night when temperatures are cooler to prevent waste through evaporation. Remember that most of the year lawns only need one inch of water per week. If your grass springs back up after your step on it, it doesn’t need to be watered.

Try to make conscious effort to reduce your use of water whenever you can. Ask the waiter to not bring water at restaurants if you know you’re won’t be drinking it. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth. Only use the washing machine for a full load.
While it might seem like these changes only save small amounts of water, every drop adds up immensely, especially when we all work together to save.

Droughts happen, but if we educate ourselves about them, we can greatly reduce our human impact. Working together is key to maintaining a safe water supply and good quality of life for everyone. Got any good ideas on saving water before and during drought season? Leave it in the comments!


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