Some extreme weather events such as forest fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes are easy to identify and define. On the other hand, another extreme weather event that affects millions of Americans each year is a bit harder to pinpoint.
What is a drought and how do we know when it starts and when it ends? Unlike floods, which immediately affect homeowners, droughts are more long term with effects that can last months or years. According to the United States Geological Survey, when a drought occurs, an entire area is affected for a prolonged period of time. When precipitation is less than normal and an area’s water supply is affected, a drought is occurring.
Droughts are much different from usual dry conditions that may happen annually during the summer, winter, or other months in some areas. The main difference between a drought and typical dry weather conditions is the extreme drought effects on an area’s water supply.
Every area of the U.S. has a specific amount of precipitation expected to fall over the year, which is usually consistent. When less precipitation falls than normal over an extended period of time, the soil dries out. This causes trees and crops to die and water in streams, rivers, and lakes to dry up. If this persists, the area is said to be experiencing drought conditions. Some of the driest towns and cities that are experiencing droughts only get around seven to 13 inches of rainfall per year.
When Is a Drought Over?
Several rainstorms over a few weeks or months may need to take place before a drought ends. During a short rainstorm, much of the water may evaporate before it impacts plant life or soil conditions. The leftover is quickly used by plants, trees, and crops and doesn’t positively impact the area’s water resources. So while rainfall can help reduce the effects of a drought, a single rainstorm doesn’t mark the end of the drought conditions. In addition, some areas affected by drought conditions can experience flash floods during a rainstorm because the water drains quickly into rivers and streams rather than soaking into the ground.
The biggest indicator of the end of a drought is heavy, soaking rain, where enough water falls over a sustained period of time to dampen and recharge the soil, sustain vegetation growth and improve water resources.
How Drought Conditions Affect Our Lives
During a drought, the amount of water in reserve can be severely impacted and cause restrictions for use to be put in place. We may not realize it, but from watering local crops to filling swimming pools and keeping our trees healthy and shady, a community’s water resources are essential to everyday life. Droughts also cause increases in produce prices and impact local plant and wildlife. Some communities use water to generate the power they use, so when drought conditions affect the water resources in an area, many lives are impacted in different ways.
Along with that, the structural health of your home can also be severely impacted during this time. During drought periods, the soil conditions are affected tremendously. Soil changes around your foundation can cause cracks in your basement floors or walls, which can be the source of many damages in your home, like flooding.
Several foundation problems that can happen due to drought conditions include:
- Bowing foundation walls
- Floor cracks
- Wall cracks
- Basement flooding
- Crawl space moisture
- Cracking or leaning chimney
If you are experiencing any of these drought impacts, schedule a free inspection with your local professional today to identify problem areas immediately.
The impact of droughts can be labeled one of three ways—economic, environmental, and social. Economic drought impacts include crop losses, recreational business losses, and an increase in home water delivery prices. The environmental impacts can be widespread and include destruction of wildlife habitats, an increase in wildfires, and soil erosion which impacts crop yields. Social impacts include a reduction in recreation areas and activities, increased health problems, income reduction, and stress.
Reducing Drought Effects on Our Homes
There are things homeowners can do in advance to reduce the drought impacts on their homes, lawns, and foundations. The first thing you should do if your city is experiencing dry conditions or a sustained drought is pay close attention. Many cities and states provide information on drought conditions on their website, on television, or via email alerts. If homeowners don’t rely on water for their business as a farmer or rancher does, they may not follow along closely with changing weather conditions in their area. However, if anyone wants to protect their own home and lawn from a drought, it’s best to follow orders correctly.
Around 30 to 45 days before dry conditions are expected, homeowners should increase their lawn maintenance. Like some have to prepare for summer heat, some homeowners need to prepare their lawn for drought conditions. A few important steps include regular watering, organic mulch and fertilizer, and mowing that leaves at least two inches of grass or more. Leaving two to three inches of grass improves the moisture retention of the lawn. During a drought, you should leave lawn clippings on the yard and restrict watering to only the most important areas.
Finally, if you want to protect your home’s foundation and the overall health of your property, it’s important to first assess the status of your home. If you are not prepared for drought conditions, you may run into damage that could turn irreversible, quickly. Unfortunately, damage in the lower levels of your home can show themselves in the main levels of your home. With that, moisture and mold damage can affect you and your home’s occupants.
Luckily, if you act fast, your local foundation repair experts can help you secure your property. Some of the most common repair services include:
- Structural wall and foundation repair
- Basement or crawl space repair and waterproofing
- Concrete lifting and stabilizing
Saving Water Resources With Small Daily Changes
There are small things homeowners can do to save water resources and reduce their impact. A few small acts that make a big impact on water use include:
- Take shorter showers.
- Turn off the tap when not in use.
- Water the lawn less often—once a week at most.
- Water the lawn only late at night or early in the morning to reduce evaporation.
- Water near the building where heat isn’t reflected.
- Water on sloped areas where runoff occurs.
- Collect rainwater or recycled water from dishwashing or bathing to water the yard and plants.
Before a drought, plant beds and trees should be generously mulched with organic materials to improve the effects of watering. Newer plants need extra care when water is tight, so consider treating them with organic products that will help reduce water loss and improve nutrients in the soil. Eliminate the use of nitrogen fertilizer and increase the use of potassium fertilizer instead. Homeowners can help reduce the stress of drought conditions on plants by pruning them and removing dead limbs to enhance new growth.
Protecting a Home After a Drought
Shrinking soil and soil erosion can occur during a drought due to a lack of water. Soil shrinkage or erosion is one of the main environmental conditions that can impact a home’s foundation. If an area has experienced drought conditions, homeowners need to ensure they conduct a regular professional home inspection. Professionals in your area may be able to secure your property through structural wall and foundation repairs.
Key areas to focus on during inspection are the home’s foundation, basement, or crawl space. Learn more about creating a healthy home environment here. To get a free home inspection, contact local foundation repair professionals.