Everyone can benefit from being reminded about how important water conservation is and how simple it can be to help. Turning off the tap in the bathroom while brushing your teeth and exchanging baths for short showers is something everyone in the community can do to help.
One of the easiest steps we can take to help mitigate the impacts of drought is conserving water. If we use water wisely at all times, more water will be available to us and to plants and wildlife (even before or) when a drought happens. Let’s take a look at a few simple ways you can conserve water.
Make Every Drop Count
We can lose a lot of water doing simple everyday tasks. Did you know that turning off the water while you brush your teeth can save more than 100 gallons of water a month? If you have a leaky faucet, the drips can add up to 300 gallons of wasted water a month (Can We Protect Ourselves From Drought? 2021).
Just shutting off the faucet or fixing a leak can save a lot of water. Another way to save water is to install devices that use less water to perform everyday tasks. For example, we use the most water in our homes when we take a shower or flush the toilet. Companies now sell low-flow toilets and showerheads that can cut the amount of water used in half. People are even beginning to use composting toilets that require no water. Also, new washing machines and dishwashers use much less water than older machines (Can We Protect Ourselves From Drought? 2021).
Remember, saving water also means saving money.
New sprinkler irrigation systems can reduce water use by spraying the water out with less force so more gets to the plant and less will evaporate or blow away. Some drip irrigation systems use less water by directing the water directly to the plant’s roots. If you have a garden or if you water your lawn, many similar devices are available for use around the home too (Can We Protect Ourselves From Drought? 2021).
Another great way that you can reduce the amount of water used around your house is through xeriscaping. It’s a funny-looking word, but it is a fun way to conserve water! Xeriscaping is a type of landscaping that uses little water by only using plants that are native to the area you live in. Native plants usually need less water to grow or can make better use of the water that is available to them than other types of grasses, trees, and shrubs. The keys to xeriscaping are to use only as much water as the plants need and to choose landscaping designs and plants that make use of the available rainfall (Can We Protect Ourselves From Drought? 2021).
Businesses, cities, and people are finding new ways to save water by reusing it. Many businesses have started recycling water that they use in their manufacturing process. Instead of letting the water run down the drain, the water is collected, cleaned (if needed), and run back through the system. Many cities and other types of businesses are using “gray water” (wastewater that is treated and cleaned) to water golf courses and city parks. Water parks like Denver Water World are recycling the splash water into other areas of the water park (Can We Protect Ourselves From Drought? 2021).
Water catchments and/or rain barrels are an excellent way to conserve our water and recycle rainwater.
The 5 Best Ways to Save Water During a Drought
1. Let your lawn go dormant
The best way to save water outdoors during a drought is to let your lawn go dormant. The lawn will turn brown during dormancy but it will regain its color once the rains return. Most healthy turf grasses can be left dormant for 3 – 4 weeks without the grass dying. If drought conditions last longer than 4 weeks, water should be applied to re-hydrate the grass enough to keep it alive. Water sufficiently to wet the soil down to 5 inches. This small amount of watering will not restore the grass to its natural green color but will keep it alive until the rains come (The 5 Best Ways to Save Water During a Drought, 2012).
2. Hand water your garden and shrub beds
Hand watering your garden and shrub beds saves up to 40% of the water used when compared to sprinklers, since sprinklers apply water across the entire swath they are set to cover. In a garden, the pathways take up much of the ground space and do not need watering. And by not watering the pathways you won’t need to weed them since the weeds will dry up and wither. Hand watering also delivers all the water right where it is needed, unlike the sprinkler which loses some water to wind and evaporation before it reaches the ground (The 5 Best Ways to Save Water During a Drought, 2012).
3. Wash your car using a bucket for water
During a drought, people understand that it’s wasteful to wash cars on a regular basis, so driving around in a dusty car is socially commendable. When the car must be washed, fill a bucket with water and use a sponge to apply the water. Refill the bucket to rinse, again using the sponge to apply the water sparingly. A quarter cup of white vinegar can be added to the water to reduce streaks, and this solution does not need further rinsing (The 5 Best Ways to Save Water During a Drought, 2012).
4. Keep drinking water in a jug in the refrigerator
At home, we typically run the tap until the water runs cold every time we want a drink. By simply decanting tap water into a large container, or individual bottles, you can save as much as 50% of the water used for personal drinking. Besides the obvious benefit of conserving water, keeping water in the refrigerator has two additional benefits – the water is cooler than it would be from the tap, and the practice of decanting water from the fridge helps families wean themselves of the wasteful practice of buying water in individual plastic bottles which eventually clog landfills and add to the burden of plastic waste (The 5 Best Ways to Save Water During a Drought, 2012).
5. Apply mulch to plants, shrubs, and ornamental trees
By covering the soil with mulch around the base of plants, the evaporation of water from the soil is greatly reduced. Plants can better survive a drought when mulched, and require less frequent watering. There are many different materials that can be used for mulch, but care should be taken to not use materials with weed seeds or materials which do not ‘breathe’, such as plastic sheeting. (Using plastic sheeting will solarize the soil, killing beneficial organisms in the top layers of soil.) (The 5 Best Ways to Save Water During a Drought, 2012).
National Drought Mitigation Center: Can We Protect Ourselves From Drought? (2021). Retrieved information on June 18, 2021, from https://drought.unl.edu/Education/DroughtforKids/Protection.aspx
Midwest Drought Monitor. (2021) Retrieved information on June 18, 2021, from https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/CurrentMap/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?Midwest
The 5 Best Ways to Save Water During a Drought (2012). Retrieved information on June 18, 2021, from https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/the-5-best-ways-to-save-water-during-a-drought/
Creating Drought Prepared Communities with these Important Steps (2020). Retrieved information on June 18, 2021, from https://www.groundworkscompanies.com/about/articles/drought-preparedness-checklist/