Drought is considered a weather-related natural disaster characterized by a prolonged dry period in an area's natural climate cycle. Droughts can affect vast regions for months or even years, and can have a significant impact on food production and economic performance. This physical phenomenon is often exacerbated by human activities, such as farming, deforestation, erosion, and excessive irrigation. Drought areas tend to be warmer than other areas, due to a lack of rain-producing clouds, dry ground, and vegetation that results in little evaporation. There are three general types of droughts: meteorological, hydrological, and agricultural. Meteorological droughts are a prolonged deficit of rainfall. Hydrological droughts occur where there are very low ground water tables and elevations. Agricultural droughts occur during extended dry periods, which have an adverse effect on cultivated vegetation. Conserving water during a drought is crucial to save our most precious resource, as all things depend on water to survive.
During a drought, water is lost from the soil due to evaporation and from the leaves of plants due to transpiration. This process is known as evapotranspiration. Water becomes lost as it drains through the soil without reaching the plant roots. Evapotranspiration, sunshine, wind, temperature, and rainfall all play major roles in soil moisture. When this moisture is depleted, the consequences can be grave. Farmers are immediately affected by drought, as crops fail to thrive and animals are without sufficient grass to graze. Even if soil moisture returns, the results of drought can be long-lasting, and ground water and irrigation dams can take many months to recover. Drought can also have significant social impacts, as it can affect both safety and health. Lack of water by drought is one of the leading causes of malnutrition and famine in some areas of the world. Fresh, clean water is unfortunately a limited resource, and droughts limit access to the water that is critical to sustain life on Earth. People who have access to fresh water can take the necessary steps now to conserve their water use to better the planet.
Water conservation is of the utmost importance during a drought. Good water use practices reduce the amount of stress that is placed on resources, both by reducing wastewater discharges and limiting water withdrawals. Conserving water also decreases general wear and tear on major infrastructures, such as wastewater treatment plants and water distribution centers. There are hundreds of ways homes and businesses can save water, such as installing low flow toilets or limiting the length of showers. In the bathroom, turn off water while brushing your teeth, face washing or shaving. Installing low-flow faucet aerators in your sinks can save gallons of water over time. Fix leaky faucets right away, as a constant drip can also be a huge waste of water. Water conservation practices can also be adapted in the kitchen. Fill the dishwasher completely before turning it on, and using a pan of soapy water for washing and another with clean hot water for rinsing instead of allowing the tap to run. Scrape food off of plates, and limit the use of the garbage disposal. Outdoors, water the lawn and plants less frequently, but for a longer period of time to allow the water to better penetrate the ground. Also water the lawn early in the morning or late in the evening, as this reduces evaporation loss.
Being prepared for a drought means understanding how a drought affects the environment and what you can do to positively manage water use. Families, communities, and governments must all do their part to prepare for droughts to avoid the various hazards that a drought poses. Water conservation is the key to protecting this important natural resource and the plant life, animals, and humans that rely on it daily. Saving water also saves energy, as energy is needed to pump and treat water. You can also see the difference on your own utility bills, as conserving water can save you money on electrical, gas and water costs. Make a difference in your own household by sitting down with your family and discussing the importance of water conservation, and what you can do as individuals to reduce your daily water use. Saving water can be like any other habit. The more you do it, the more natural it will become.
Written By: Lynn Taylor