How to Survive a Drought

…By Making the Most of the Water You Have

When people say “drought” there are two kinds of images that come to mind right away.  One is a “Death Valley” type of desert where temperatures regularly climb above the hundred-degree mark for several months out of the year. This type of location only has measurable rainfall a couple of times annually.  

Another might be the “dust bowl” of the early 1900’s that caused farmers in southern regions of the United States to lose their livelihoods. This also caused them to migrate westward in search of work and fertile land to support themselves and their families.  

What may not immediately come to mind are thoughts of the contemporary southwestern United States. For example, southern California today where the standard of living is generally thought to be one of the best anywhere in the world is known for dry weather.  

Residents of Los Angeles, San Diego, and surrounding communities and rural areas can be observed to visibly cringe when asked about their utility bills for water and sewer services. This is a problem. Those living in more rural areas away from municipal water services are likely to have first-hand stories of their wells running dry for extended periods of time and their lawns and gardens going brown.  

In reality, the threat of a drought is not something that is limited to history books, desert climates, or the vague, distant future of possible climate change.  

How to survive a drought - dry weather

It is something that is happening right now, in one of the most developed and desirable geographic regions of the United States.

Surviving a Drought in Today’s World

This dynamic is happening now, and it has left many people who live in these regions wondering how to survive a drought.  

In reality, the key is making the most of the water you have and not wasting any.  Survival in a contemporary dry spell will, of course, look very different from how it looked historically.  Here are some real-time ways that individuals and communities in the heart of water-strapped areas have been able to cope.

Survival strategies can be broken down into individual and community efforts.  

  • For individuals to conserve water resources and try to save a bit on ever-increasing utility bills, there are a few suggestions.  
  1. Taking shorter and less frequent showers
  2. Only doing full loads of laundry
  3. Delaying tasks that involve large-scale expenditures of fresh water (washing cars, boats and recreational vehicles)

Community efforts involve modeling desirable behavior toward the conservation of existing water resources and incentivizing these same kinds of behaviors.

Often, the incentives are financial.  People (especially property owners) who are living in an area with an ongoing water shortage should check with their local municipalities to see if they qualify for any of these water conservation programs.

Supporting the use of more efficient home appliances is one type of municipal program that exists in many water-strapped locations.  Some incentives proposed and used are: 

  • One time, lump-sum payments to residents with documentation after replacing  a washing machine, dishwasher, water heater or other home appliance. 
  • Ongoing utility discounts for commercial and residential customers who upgrade their larger appliances.
How to survive a drought - conserve
  • Removing “traditional” lawns and gardens is promoted in many areas. Lawns, gardens and “non native” plants use a great deal of this precious resource. 
how to survive - succulent garden

Yes, these areas look nice, but maintaining them will require a lot of water, which typically would be produced naturally. Unfortunately, the drier the climate becomes, more “added” water becomes necessary.  

San Diego and a few other southwestern communities have periodically offered property owners an incentive of as much as $3000 or more to remove their “traditional” yards. This initiative asks homeowners to replace them with water-conserving landscaping

Examples of this? 

  • Plants that are indigenous to the area
  • Plants capable of surviving with little or no additional watering (succulents). 

Not only are they water-efficient, but also beautiful to look at and functional for preserving the integrity of the property.

Home water conservation with a rain barrel is recommended, since southwestern regions of the US are not without some natural rainfall each year. Conserving the water that does arrive naturally is essential and this water can be used for many purposes.

  • Watering plants
  • Washing vehicles
  • Composting
  • Water for pets or livestock
  • Replenishing outdoor water features
How to survive - rain barrel

Learning the best ways to conserve water is essential when figuring out how to survive a drought or even simply dealing with drought-like conditions. This is why using something like the Water Freedom System is recommended. 

Take this quiz to assess your need for this type of system within your home, and learn more about this program to begin your journey to a fresh, clean water supply for your home.

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