When water is at a premium, get serious by preparing for less of it
Drought is a word strikes terror in the hearts of many an American living in the western U.S. these days, no matter why it’s happening. So how do you prepare your home for a continued drought where your risk is high? Redfin’s Lexi Klinkenberg says to help you get started, assess your water needs and come up with a plan for conserving your water supply.
Simply defined, a drought occurs when there is a lack of precipitation—such as snow, sleet, or rain—resulting in a water shortage for a long period of time. “While droughts occur naturally, human activity, such as water use and management, can also cause a drought,” she says. “Actual drought conditions vary from region to region, and the determination of a drought is based on an area’s specific weather patterns. For example, six rainless days on the tropical island of Bali could be considered a drought for that area. Whereas in Navajo County, AZ, 51% of the year is spent in a drought.”
You know if you live in a drought-prone area, so why not implement some measures to ensure that you and your community are prepared if a drought hits? First, check and repair any water leaks in your home. “Leaky pipes can waste thousands of gallons of water a year, and not only will this waste precious water you may need when a drought hits, it also will cause your water bill to increase,” says Klinkenberg, who advises homeowners to check all faucets and toilets to make sure no water is leaking. To double-check, read your water meter, wait thirty minutes without using any water, and check back to see if there’s a difference. “If there is a discrepancy, you likely have a leak somewhere and may need to call a professional to investigate.”
That old dishwasher or clothes washer might have to go. Older appliances tend to use more water than is needed. While there will be an upfront expense to replace your existing water-based appliances, you’ll get your return on investment with a lower water bill. “Water-efficient versions of your appliances like low-flow shower heads, low-volume toilets, and high-efficiency dishwashers or washing machines will make all the difference when it comes to conserving water and preparing for a drought,” says Klinkenberg.
Of course, one of the most important things you can personally do is not waste water. Be conscious of your actions. Take an “army shower” and turn off the shower when not rinsing off. When doing things like washing dishes, brushing your teeth, and shaving, remember to turn the faucet off when you are not directly using the water.
Did you know you can reuse water that normally would have been wasted? “One way to do this is to place a bucket in the shower to collect the water while you wait for it to heat up, and then use that water to water your plants or clean the exterior areas of your home,” says Klinkenberg. As for those glorious times when the rain falls, take advantage of this free water by harvesting some of it in a rainwater barrel. “You can use this rainwater for drought conditions by using it to water your lawn and vegetation,” says Klinkenberg. “It will also help you reduce your water bill. Place the barrel of your choice under a downspout gutter to efficiently collect rainwater for later use.”
Other steps to take include replacing thirsty plants with native, drought-tolerant vegetation and using plenty of mulch to retain moisture in the soil as it helps keep the weeds away. Weeds ultimately rob your plants of water. Then go one further and look to implement smart irrigation. “You can do this one of two ways: you can drip-irrigate with a hose that has small holes and move it around the yard, or if you have a sprinkler system, install a smart controller that monitors moisture in the soil and turns on sprinklers as needed. This will allow you to conserve water more efficiently if a drought occurs,” she says.
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