Droughts are prolonged periods of less-than-average rainfall. They can last from several weeks to years, causing significant hardship due to a lack of water for drinking, cleaning, and watering crops. If you live in a drought-prone area, it will help if you take a few measures to ensure that you and your community are as prepared as possible if a drought hits.
The best way to prepare for a drought is to conserve water. Make conserving water a part of your daily life.
- Put a water rationing plan in place in the event of a water shortage.
- Never pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it. For example, use it to water your indoor plants or garden.
- Serious droughts can result in water shortages that could last weeks or months. With proper rationing and conservation, however, you and your household can hold out for several weeks on stored drinking water. If you live in a drought-prone area, it would be a good idea to have a plan in place for what you'll do in the event of a drought. By drawing up a plan, you and your family can be prepared for when a drought does hit.
- Humans require about 2 litres of water daily just to live. Considering water usage for sanitation, you should plan on each person in your household using approximately 4 litres of water per day. Keep this figure in mind when stocking or gathering water.
- Certain people require more water than others. Usually, children, nursing mothers, and people with chronic illnesses need more than 2 litres a day.
- Keep extra water stocked in case of a medical emergency. If someone gets sick or injured, they'll need to drink more to stay hydrated. You also will need water to clean any wounds.
- Make sure everyone in your house knows the limits on water usage in the event of a drought.
- If a situation gets dire and drinking water is getting scarce, don't ration to the point of dehydration. Drink what you need to stay alive.
- Install a rain catch system. Thousands of litres of water fall on your property every year. Take advantage of this by harvesting some of it. You can stock this rainwater for drought conditions by using it to water your lawn and cleaning. Installing one is easy. Get a large drum (55 gallons is usually standard) from a hardware store. Get several if you plan on storing the water. Place the drum under a downspout gutter and run the gutter into the drum. If you don't have gutters on your house, place the drum under a section of your roof where water usually runs off.
- Rainwater must be thoroughly filtered before drinking. You should generally only drink it in an emergency situation after boiling for three-five minutes.
Conserving Water in Your Household
- Fix any leaks in your home. Leaky pipes can waste thousands of gallons of water per year.
- Check the faucets in your kitchen and bathrooms. Replacing washers can fix some leaks. One drop per second wastes 12,000 litres of water a year. Check your toilet to make sure no water is escaping from the back of the tank into the bowl. Add food colouring to the tank. Don't flush and check back in 30 minutes. If there is colour in the bowl, you have a leaky seal in the tank and should get it repaired.
- Put a large pop bottle in the toilet tank to use less water each flush or install a low-flush toilet to conserve water year-round.
- Read your water meter. Then wait 30 minutes without using any water and check it again. If there is any difference, you have a leak somewhere. If you can't locate it, call a plumber to investigate.
- Install water-efficient appliances. Household appliances often use much more water than necessary. Upgrade certain appliances in your home to water-efficient versions to save money and conserve water.
- Install a low-flow showerhead to save water while you shower.
- Install aerators with flow restrictors household faucets.
- Turn water off when not in use. It is a bad habit to keep the faucet running when brushing your teeth or shaving.
- Operate automatic dishwashers only when they are fully loaded. Use the "light wash" feature to use less water.
- Hand wash dishes by filling two containers—one with soapy water and the other with rinse water containing a small amount of chlorine bleach.
- Clean vegetables in a pan filled with water rather than running water from the tap.
- Operate clothes washers only when fully loaded or set the water level for the size of your load.
Conserving Water Outside Your Home
- Check your well pump periodically. If the automatic pump turns on and off while water is not being used, you have a leak.
- Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs, and trees. Once established, your plants won't need as much watering. Group plants together based on similar water needs.
- Plant drought-resistant lawn seed. Reduce or eliminate lawn areas that are not used frequently.
- Don't over-fertilize your lawn. Applying fertilizer increases the need for water. Apply fertilizers that contain slow-release, water-insoluble forms of nitrogen.
- Don't install ornamental water features (such as fountains) unless they use re-circulated water.
- Raise the lawn mower blade to at least three inches or to its highest level. A higher cut encourages grass roots to grow deeper and holds soil moisture.
- Position sprinklers so water lands on the lawn and shrubs and not on paved areas.
- Check sprinkler systems and timing devices regularly to be sure they operate properly.
- Choose a water-efficient irrigation system such as drip irrigation for your trees, shrubs, and flowers.
- Use mulch around trees and plants to retain moisture in the soil. Mulch also helps control weeds that compete with plants for water.
- If you have a pool, install a water-saving pool filter. A single back flushing with a traditional filter uses 800 to 1,100 litres of water.
- Cover pools and spas to reduce water evaporation.
Reuse Water That Would Have Been Wasted
There are numerous ways that household water gets wasted. Instead of letting water flow down the drain, collect it and put it to better use.
- Running the shower or faucet, the water can take a few seconds to minutes to warm up. During this time water is running down the drain. Place a bucket in the sink or shower when you do this, then use that water for plants so you don't have to use the hose.
- Water your lawn sparingly, if at all. Over-watering your lawn is a big waste of water.