Drought is not just a concern in the United States but worldwide. It is affecting our budgets, way of life and sadly even causing deaths. The United Nations report, Drought in Numbers 2022, revealed that between 1970 and 2019, weather, climate and water hazards accounted for 50% of disasters and 45% of disaster-related deaths. Though droughts only made up 15% of natural disasters that occurred during the period, they were responsible for 650,000 deaths around the world, more than any other disaster-related events. Droughts are increasing meaning these numbers will only get worse. Droughts trigger massive economic losses including job losses and severe food shortages.
We may not be able to call down water from the sky, but we can preserve what we do have to enable farmers to have enough to grow our food, and to meet basic needs, not just for ourselves, but for others. As we use water and shrink the amounts stored behind dams and in lakes, we reduce the amount allocated to farmers. There is also a selfish reason, the increased numbers on our water bills and our food costs and food availability.
We should all be praying for help from above. But we can also make changes around our homes and encourage others to do the same.
Use washing machine for full loads only.
Install a water-efficient clothes washer. Save: 16 Gallons/Load
Washing all clothes in cold water saves water and helps your clothes retain their color.
Check washing machine hoses for leaks.
Run the dishwasher only when full.
Install a water and energy-efficient dishwasher. Save: 3 to 8 Gallons/Load.
When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run. Fill one basin with wash water and the other with rinse water. Dishwashers typically use less water than washing dishes by hand.
If possible, cut back on rinsing before loading the dishwasher. If you must rinse fill a bowl with water and use a dish cloth to wipe dishes.
Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scour them clean.
Use the garbage disposal sparingly. Instead, compost vegetable food waste and save gallons every time.
Use a bowl in the kitchen sink so you use less water when washing dishes or vegetables. When you’re done, use the (cooled) water for your plants or garden, or even to rinse cans and bottles before recycling them.
Don’t use running water to thaw food. Defrost food in the refrigerator, microwave, or pan of water. When food is defrosted, use water to water plants.
Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running water each time you want a drink.
Cooking food in as little water as possible saves water and preserves nutrients.
Select the proper pan size for cooking. Large pans may require more cooking water than if you had just used a smaller pan.
If you accidentally drop ice cubes or if they are old and freezer burned, don’t throw them in the sink. Use them to water a houseplant. Just place them in the pot and let them melt.
Never put water down the drain when there may be another use for it such as watering a plant or garden, or cleaning.
When cooking, use water twice. Cook your veggies and when you drain them drain the water into another pot. Use this water to cook your pasta.
Always use a lid on everything you cook. Don’t lose precious water to steam.
Cover foods being cooked with only enough water to cover the uncooked items. Add more as needed.
Install low-flow shower heads.
Take five-minute showers instead of 10-minute showers.
Fill the bathtub halfway or less when bathing.
When running a bath, plug the bathtub before turning on the water. Adjust the temperature as the tub fills.
Use water left in tub following a bath to wash the dog, wash window blinds, or scoop out and water plants.
Consider bathing small children together.
Place five-gallon bucket in the shower to catch water while it warms up. Use it to water plants.
Install a high-efficiency toilet or dual-flush toilet. It has two flush options: a half-flush for liquid waste and a full flush for solid waste.
Place plastic bottle filled with water in the tank to reduce water used per flush. Do not use a brick.
Don’t use the toilet to flush tissues.
Be sure to test your toilet for leaks at least once a year. Put food coloring in your toilet tank. If it seeps into the bowl without flushing, there’s a leak. Fix it and start saving gallons.
Don’t let water run while shaving or washing your face. Brush your teeth while waiting for water to get hot with basin plugged, then wash or shave after basin fills. If your water takes a long time to heat up place a wet washcloth on a space heater, when appropriate, to heat the towel and use it to wash your face.
Turn off the water while washing your hair.
When adjusting water temperatures, instead of turning water flow up, try turning it down. If the water is too hot, turn down the hot rather than turning up the cold.
Check that your home is leak-free. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period during which you are certain that no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak.
Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. If your faucet is dripping at the rate of one drop per second, you can waste 2,700 gallons per year.
Insulate water pipes to reduce the time it takes for hot water to flow.
Install an instant hot water system.
Do not use water softeners. If you must, then turn them off when away from home for more than a day.
Check your pump. If you have a well at your home, listen to see if the pump kicks on and off while the water is not in use. If it does, you have a leak.
Install aerators on all faucets and showerheads to reduce flow.
Use cups with straws or reusable water bottles instead of glasses. Think about it. When you go to the sink to fill a glass or fill glasses for dinner do you drink all you have poured, or do you pour what is left down the drain? With a covered cup or water bottle you can take the remaining water with you to drink later.
When traveling or just running errands use a water bottle. When you return home dump the water on plants. When you find half full water bottles in the car or around the house use them to water plants.
When watering the lawn, allow the kids and the dog to cool down and run thru the sprinklers.
Saving Water Outdoors
Use a timer when watering to avoid over watering.
Don’t overwater your lawn. On average lawns only need watering every 5 to 7 days in summer and every 10 to 14 days in winter. Water lawns during the early morning hours when temperatures and wind speed are the lowest.
Water early or late. Early morning is the best time to water. If this is not possible, water late in the evening. Both approaches reduce water lost through evaporation.
Don’t water your street, driveway, or sidewalk. Be sure sprinklers water only lawns and shrubs…not paved areas.
Install sprinklers that are the most appropriate for the job. Micro and drip irrigation and soaker hoses are water-efficient methods of irrigation.
Regularly check sprinkler systems and timing devices to be sure they are operating properly.
Raise the lawn mower blade to at least three inches. A lawn cut higher encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system and holds soil moisture better.
Avoid over fertilizing. The application of fertilizers increases the need for water. The best fertilizers are slow-release, water-insoluble forms of nitrogen.
Mulch around garden plants and around plants in containers. Mulching, 2-3 inches, helps retain moisture in the soil and control weeds that steal water from plants. However, be careful. If you are not watering under the mulch with a soaker hose the mulch will absorb the water and it will not reach the roots. Mulch doesn’t have to be expensive, use pebbles, gravel, chipped bark, grass clippings, leaves, even newspaper.
Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees. Once established, they do not need to be watered as frequently and they usually will survive a dry period without any watering.
Group plants together based on similar water needs.
Plant in season. We have just moved and there is nothing pretty in our yard, but it is over 100 degrees each day and we are experiencing a catastrophic drought. It’s frustrating to wait but I will wait for fall or winter to plant.
Water selectively; focus on more vulnerable or new plants, or ones with wilting leaves. Water directly using micro sprinklers or water by hand. Water after sunset or before sunrise and don’t forget to water the leaves as well as the roots. Leaves drink in water and keep foliage healthy.
If your assigned watering day turns windy, do not use a system that shoots water high into the air. You will be watering the car or sidewalk much of the time. Keep sprinklers turned down low or use a soaker hose. Ditch the sprinkler system and use an inexpensive sprinkler attached to a hose.
Water less often but for a longer period of time. Frequent watering encourages roots to stay near the surface instead of going deep down in search of water.
Plant in the ground and avoid baskets and pots during a drought. These need watering much more often.
Do not hose down your driveway or sidewalk. Use a broom or leaf blower to clean leaves and other debris from these areas. Watering with a nozzle can use as little as 2.8 gallons per minute while a standard hose typically uses 5 to 20 gallons per minute. Remember even 2.8 gallons is more than we store for an entire day for one person.
Use a nozzle on hoses that can be adjusted down to a fine spray so that water flows only as needed.
Turn off water at the faucet instead of at the nozzle to avoid leaks.
Replace hose washers between spigots and water hoses to eliminate leaks.
Do not leave sprinklers or hoses unattended. Your garden hoses can pour out 600 gallons or more in only a few hours, so don’t leave the sprinkler running all day. Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to turn it off.
Check all hoses, connectors and spigots regularly.
Consider using a commercial car wash that recycles water. If you wash your own car, park on the grass to do so.
Avoid the installation or use of ornamental water features (such as fountains). Use them again when the drought is over.
If you have a swimming pool, consider a new water-saving pool filter. A single back flushing with a traditional filter uses from 180 to 250 gallons or more of water.
Keep pool or spa covered when not in use to avoid evaporation.
Get a rainwater butt and connect it to the downpipe from your roof gutters to capture any rainfall to use in watering your garden. Or use a perforated hose that can be attached to the downspout to distribute water or use a bent piece of metal under the spout to direct the water to the garden or tree.
Save or make ice. If you have ice left after a picnic, water a plant or dry spot on a lawn. Fill used disposable water bottles ¾ full, freeze, poke a few holes in the bottles and fill the rest of the bottle with water. Replace the lid and plant the bottle near a favorite outdoor plant. The water will slowly water the plant at the roots using less water and keeping the ground moist longer. When the bottle is empty refill. Even without ice the plant will be watered more efficiently.
Grass is not always best. Consider hardscaping. If an area is difficult to water let it die and, in the fall, or winter when the weather cools remove dead plants and hardscape the area.
Most of these take very little effort and just some simple changes in habits. Over time, you will not even notice the changes as they become a natural part of your day.
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