According to the U.S. Drought Portal, drought conditions are felt in nearly one-third of the country’s land area, with exceptional drought levels seen in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Iowa, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, Oregon, Nevada, and California.
Other extreme weather events like hurricanes, floods, or tornadoes may be easier to identify. However, droughts can cause the same amount of destruction. Each year, droughts cause loss of life and impact communities, homeowners, and business owners across the country.
Drought is defined as a lack of precipitation over an extended time period, which results in a shortage of water resources. Environmental impacts and growing water needs can contribute to the natural impacts of drought conditions, making it more difficult to save water resources. To plan for drought conditions in your area and reduce the costly effects of a drought, review this Drought Preparation Checklist for Communities.
As part of the community’s effort to plan for droughts and respond to drought conditions, homeowners can also implement immediate measures to conserve water, reducing the impact of future droughts on the local water supply.
Finally, drought conditions can affect soil conditions, including causing erosion. Even if you can see what’s going on from above, what’s happening underground can cause significant damage to a home’s foundation. It’s important to understand how drought conditions can impact a home before costly damage occurs, and schedule an inspection if you suspect any foundational issues.
Reviewing Historical Drought Conditions
To begin creating a drought-ready community, a review of the history of drought conditions in the area is important. Start by creating a list of questions to keep in mind during this time, such as:
- How often has the community been affected by droughts in the past? For how long?
- What was the economic impact on the area?
- What areas of the community were most affected?
- Are some areas affected by drought conditions more often than others?
Taking note of past conditions can help communities plan for the future. In addition, identifying repeated drought conditions or major financial impacts from past droughts can help strengthen the community’s commitment to becoming drought-ready.
Educating homeowners, businesses and elected officials about the past and potential drought impacts are one of the first steps to preparing for these conditions. This includes the damage to homes and buildings that can be caused by changing soil conditions. In addition, finding programs that are available to help in response to an emergency, including drought and reduction in water supply, is essential. There are numerous federal, state, and local resources available to help communities plan for and respond to drought conditions.
Understanding the Local Water Supply vs. Demand
Three things to understand that are essential in planning for drought conditions are:
- Knowledge of the community’s water supply
- How the water is used throughout the community
- Projected future drought damage
These three points can help communities plan for future water needs, respond to water shortages, and understand where to implement water conservation efforts. As part of the community’s water resources review, create a list of the areas, businesses, groups, and individuals who would be most affected by a lack of water. For some communities, this could be farmers or other agricultural industries. For others, it could be businesses supported by tourists visiting natural water resources like lakes and rivers.
Implementing a monitoring system that consistently reviews the community’s water resources and identifies issues or concerns as soon as possible is important. Make sure to identify who is responsible for the ongoing water resource monitoring.
Another important part of a drought preparedness plan is a communications plan that identifies what information is important to collect and share with key stakeholders, partners, and the general public about a drought. You should know how you will communicate with these groups and how often to do so in case of an emergency.
Water Conservation Strategies for Homeowners
As part of drought preparation planning, communities should consider water conservation strategies to help mitigate future drought conditions and communicate those to the public, businesses, and other stakeholders.
Quick fixes and lifestyle changes you can make in order to save water include:
- Fixing leaky pipes
- Installing water-saving appliances
- Remind your neighbors and family about the importance of water conservation
- Turn off the tap in the bathroom while brushing your teeth
- Exchange baths for short showers
- Collect rainwater to water plants and lawn
For homeowners who want to do a bit more, there are more extensive measures you can put in place such as:
- Installing a toilet dam
- Installing faucet aerators
- Using low-flow showerheads
- Planting natural vegetation that doesn’t require overwatering
- Leaving the grass in your lawn two to three inches long while mowing to improve water retention
- Watering the lawn no more than once a week or when needed
- Adding mulch to flower beds to reduce water evaporation
By following these measures, you can majorly help conserve water for yourself and your community during drought conditions.
Identifying and Fixing Foundation Damage Caused by Dry Conditions
The soil conditions around a home can have a major impact on the health of the home’s foundation over time. If homeowners notice cracks in their home’s floors, walls, basement, or crawl space, they may have identified a problem with the home’s foundation. Bowing foundation walls and leaning or cracking chimneys can be caused by erosion and soil changes that come along with drought conditions.
Cracks or separations between floors and walls, which can allow water to seep inside the home, or around windows and doors are other signs of a settling foundation. Foundation issues can be costly to repair if not identified and fixed quickly. A cracked foundation can also cause major problems in a flood or major rainstorm. To identify small foundation problems before they become big ones, contact local foundation repair professionals for a free home foundation inspection and repair estimate.