California is currently in the middle of a megadrought, but droughts can happen in a variety of places and to a number of different degrees. Water conservation is something you should practice now, before a drought hits, not just once one arrives. Here’s what to do leading up to and during a drought.
What is a drought?
According to the National Weather Service, there are meteorological factors to consider when determining if a region is experiencing a drought because, “due to climate differences, what might be considered a drought in one location of the country may not be a drought in another location.”
Droughts can impact agriculture, the availability of subsurface water supplies, and even an area’s socioeconomic standing. Farmers can be impacted financially, but the people who eat the food they grow can obviously be negatively impacted, too, as can people working in the hydropower industry and those who will pay higher energy bills as a result.
How to prepare before a drought
Get familiar with water conservation and start practicing it long before you might actually need to. The state of Massachusetts has a whole guide on how to prepare for a drought, and it includes tips like these:
Don’t pour water down the drain if you could use it for anything else.
Repair leaky faucets as soon as you notice them (and the same goes for well pumps).
Check your plumbing for leaks—and fix those ASAP, too.
Install aerators with flow restrictors on your faucets.
Put an instant hot water heater on your sink.
Insulate your water pipes.
Install a water-softening system to avoid damage to your pipes (but turn it off when you’re gone for a long period, like a vacation).
Opt for energy efficient appliances.
Get a low-volume toilet or install a toilet displacement device to lower the amount of water required to flush a toilet with a larger tank.
Use ultra-low-flow showerheads.
Plant drought-tolerant flowers, grasses, and other greenery.
Use mulch to retain soil moisture.
Opt for decorative water features (like fountains) in your garden that use re-circulated water.
Make sure your sprinklers are positioned so water hits the lawn and shrubs, not concrete.
Put your lawn mower blade on a high level to encourage your grass roots to grow deeper.
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Call your local water provider to get preparation tips that are specific to your area and type of home, too. What works for someone in one part of the country may not be feasible for you wherever you are, but your local provider will have more relevant advice.
When a drought happens, it impacts everyone, but it’ll also have an impact on your daily life. You need to make some adjustments to how you’re living. Keep these actions in mind:
Don’t flush the toilet unnecessarily (so dispose of tissues, bugs, and little bits of waste in the trash).
Take short showers, and never take a bath.
Don’t run the water while you brush your teeth, wash your face, or shave.
Catch extra shower water in a bucket and use it to water your plants.
Don’t run the dishwasher or laundry machines when it isn’t totally full, and hand wash dishes when you can by using buckets, not letting the water run.
Cool drinking water in the fridge instead of letting the tap run until it gets cold.
Defrost meat in the fridge overnight instead of using running water.
There will likely be restrictions in place about how you can water your outdoor plants, too. If those aren’t immediately clear to you, call your local water authority to make sure you’re in compliance—and follow what they say to the letter. There is no reason for you to cheat here: Most lawns only need an inch of water per week throughout the year and a heavy rain eliminates the need for watering for up to two weeks. Hold out for that heavy rain. Don’t use a hose to clean your driveway when you could use a broom.
Generally, just be mindful of your water use. Take the time to set some in the fridge for drinking or catch any in a bucket while you wait for it to heat up, then use that to water plants. Some forethought and a few extra steps can help you maintain your general quality of life while you help do your part for your community during a dry time.