Surviving a Drought

I’m not certain what to believe. Evidence has some doubting the existence of a “global warming” problem, but there’s no question there has been some “climate change.” Admittedly that “change” may be part of a regular cycle of Earth, but it has manifested itself in some attention-grabbing ways. In my region of the country (Georgia) we went from a winter 18 months ago with extended days of sub-zero temperatures to several weeks in which the night temperatures never were never lower than 75º. And we’ve gone as long as 10 days without rain.

That’s a drought. And the purpose of this post is surviving a drought.

Most people think of the effects of drought on farmers and there are major implications for them. If the agricultural system suffers, so does all the economy because of the impact of the price of food. But those of us not involved in cultivation of crops need to prepare for the devastation of a waterlessness period too. Since it impacts our finances, this is a subject for OutOfYourRut.com.

Surviving a Drought
Surviving a Drought
(EDITORS NOTE: Once again late summer finds much of the US, California, the Southeast and Northeast in particular, dealing with drought of increasing severity. It seems as if drought has become an ongoing problem in much of the country – we might even call it “perma-drought” – so Bill’s post today is both timely and ongoing. Surviving a drought is fast becoming an ongoing survival skill. – Kevin)

The impact of droughts is felt far beyond local regions. Klaus Reichardt, founder and CEO of Waterless Co. Inc., points out that a domino effect begins with farmers then spirals out to water-dependent businesses and industries and finally to less water-reliant companies before finally reaching the consumer.

“Every step in the process causes more hardship, which is invariably first reflected in costs,” Reichardt notes. For instance, in April 2015 grapes rose by 64 cents per pound to $3.06, melons by 24 cents per pound to $1.23 and packaged salad by 23 cents per bag to $2.91.

“Water-intensive businesses who actively integrate accountability practices to help them identify potential waste events in real time are likely to benefit with continuing operations, and even expansion, over those who don’t,” Doll notes.

Deteriorating infrastructure and mechanical malfunctions can be blamed for the loss of billions of gallons of water every year, reports Doll. He continues that a car wash’s water [usage] presents many potential failure points for responsible water management.

“The cost of unnecessary water use is said to be included in the cost of doing business until you begin to understand how much you could save,” explains Doll. “And that’s before you consider compliance requirements, rising [costs and] reduced operation mandates.”

Plan For The Drought

As with anything affecting your lifestyle, you must do your research. The first place to go is U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook. Studying this map will ensure that your location is really, officially, in a drought situation, not just a temporary seasonal heat wave.

If you are not already doing so, start keeping track of your rainfall. Compare this data to the compiled information at the Outlook website to see where you are in the annual figures. See if you need to set up a plan on how to cope.

If it looks like you’re going in that direction, the first thing is to buy are rain barrels and cisterns. A neighbor behind us has two large storage tanks at the corners of his house catching the run-off from the gutter system. I’m certain he is diverting that water to create an irrigation system.

A slightly more drastic plan is to dig a well or tap into ground water as a new source of water. You must check with your local municipality about doing that, though; there might be some zoning restrictions or taxation issues involved.

Here’s a suggestion for a personal, home-made irrigation system for your bedding plants. Don’t throw away but recycle and reuse milk jugs or plastic bottles. Fill them with water, then, using an ice pick or a sturdy pin, put a pattern of holes in the bottoms. Dig a hole the size of the jug and place the containers in the ground near the plants. The water will slowly seep out and hydrate the root systems.

If your rain shortfall is any time other than summer, surround plants for the winter with organic mulch to preserve moisture. Pine straw, the bane of Southern yard men, is an excellent substitute. As the mulch slowly deteriorates, the little bit of heat it generates also protects the base of the plants from freezing.

Let’s Go Inside The House

There are ways to conserve water in your house. In your bathroom, put a clean, filled 12 to 20 ounce plastic bottle in a toilet tank to displace water that fills the waster disposal. At one time it was suggested you use a brick, but the deterioration of the clay kept the tank a bit dirty, and certainly was not an attractive sight as it filled the bowl.

Buy bottled water and store it. And use it! Keeping yourself hydrated during prolong heat waves is not only healthy but it is one way of coping. Be sure to rotate the stored water so it does not go bad – Yes, water can go bad. You are more at risk for infection when you have a lack of water. It is important to wash your hands after defecation and before cooking. Avoid getting sick at all costs, as illness will deplete your energy reserves and vital fluids.

Get out the old egg timer and limit showers to 5 minutes. If you’ve got a water resistant watch with a stopwatch function, wear it. You’ll be surprised how long you spend under the spray. If you use the tub fill it half way. Honestly, a shower is more hygienic and you don’t have to go back and wash out the tub, using even more water. Shower or bathe right before bedtime; the cooler night air will handle whatever heat comes from the bathing faster. It’ll also relax you more for a better sleep.

Fill a cup with water for brushing teeth. Turn the spigot on and off to rinse your brush. Same thing for shaving. Vigorously swish the razor in the bowl rather than flushing it off under running water.

Don’t use the toilet as a waste basked. Throw the trash in a bin and don’t flush the toilet when it is unnecessary. I heard my sister-in-law once reprimand her husband for tossing a facial tissue in the commode rather than in the trash can. Took me a little while to figure that one out; those tissues, unlike toilet paper, are not completely water dissoluble and enough of them can clog a sewer line.

Fill a basin and hand wash 1 or 2 items of clothing at a time. Only wash full loads of laundry in the washing machine. You should be dressing in lightweight fabrics anyway to survive in the increased temperatures.

Use a bowl of water to clean your vegetables and fruits rather than running water over them. Cook the big meal early in the day. Plan what you are going into the refrigerator for. My father used to shout at me, “Get what you want and stop cooling the rest of the house!”

And to stay cool inside, keep your thermostat set at 79º. Get a programmable thermostat, and raise the temperature after you’ve gone to sleep, then restore it to 79º an hour after you arise.

Keep shades and curtains closed. If you’ve not already done so, caulk and seal air leaks around windows and doors. That’ll not only help in the heat but keep cold drafts out in the winter, too.

Try to use the lowest wattage possible for light bulbs. And if you’ve got teenagers who demand privacy, they’ll have to be tolerant during the emergency because they should keep room doors open to encourage drafts. Here’s something you might not know—fans do not lower air temperature. They work by cooling your skin. So, save a few pennies and don’t leave ceiling or other fans running all the time. Turn them on only when you need them.

Back Outside

Water deep but infrequently; this will encourage deep roots and prepare your grass for dry periods. Wait for the grass to turn bluish-gray before watering. Mow on the highest setting on your mower and mow as few times as possible. Avoid cutting more than 1/3 of the grass off at a time.

Do not fertilize during a drought because the salt in synthetic fertilizers will rob the moisture in the soil. Use a low-nitrogen fertilizer during healthy periods of rainfall.

Use a drought tolerant grass. Centipede and Bermuda are two kinds that don’t need as much water. Try to water between 5:00 and 8:00 am and when it’s not windy to limit evaporation.

Don’t use water to clean sidewalks or driveways; instead use a broom to clean it.

Are you an anal retentive groundskeeper who carefully collects and bags the grass after he mows? Give yourself a break; leave grass clippings where they fall after mowing lawn. they’ll help insulate against heat and trap whatever moisture might develop for the lawn.

It may seem “animal friendly” to leave bowls of water out for thirsty neighborhood critters, but standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and mosquito bites can make you sick.

Are you living in a region suffering from an official drought? How has it affected your lifestyle? What, personally, are things you can do?

( Photo by Aproximando Ciência e Pessoas )

3 Responses to Surviving a Drought

  1. Thanks for this very timely article!
    I am originally from Oklahoma, so I know from drought! My mother lived there during the Dust Bowl and when I was a kid in the 50’s, we had a severe water shortage.
    We have had droughts here in Virginia, also, but nothing as extreme as out west. It is a tad dry here now but not a drought. We got totally soaked this spring and early summer.
    I currently live in a condo complex where the majority of the residents seem more concerned about frou-frou appearances than environmental or financial concerns. It is maddening. I can’t have a rain barrel, do compost, etc. because other residents think it is untidy and ugly. Grrrrrrrr. Those people! One of my biggest desires is to leave this complex and move to a country home somewhere in the mountains.
    As to climate change: I think (my opinion is just that; an opinion.) that climate change is partially man made and partially part of a regular solar/cosmic cycle. I also think it is a harbinger of the end times, if you will.
    Since our water in the condo is all on the same bill, we have no way of tracking individual financial savings and we have no control over how other condo residents use and/or waste water.
    We can only do our best to save water ourselves. I will try that bottle trick on my plants on my balcony. I put used ice cubes left from my iced tea on plants. You can put that old bottled water you have stored but is no longer good for drinking on plants so it won’t go totally to waste! I throw that water from my cat’s bowl onto outdoor plants before I wash out her bowl.
    You can put water from boiled/steamed veggies, potatoes and eggs on plants. Some people save that for soups but we don’t have the storage space in the freezer, so it goes on the plants! HINT: DO NOT put boiling water from odoriferous veggies on house plants! You will regret having cabbage odor linger in your house. Use it out of doors!

  2. Hi Mary – We’re living in a townhouse/condo right now, so I feel your pain. Many restrictions!!! Even though we like living here, we won’t be able to stay more than a couple of years due to the restrictions. I’ve never lived out west, but in Georgia drought conditions seemed to be an ongoing problem. Not so much here in New Hampshire since there is plenty of run-off from melting snow, as well as abundant lakes and rivers. We also don’t have the dense population concentrations that soak up water.

    I’m also in agreement with your comment about climate change/drought being a harbinger of the end times. I don’t know when that will happen, or if it will happen in my lifetime (I certainly hope not), but there do seem to be too many dominos lining up in the wrong direction to be ignored. For example, I’ve been thinking that the explosion of non-native giant snakes in Florida (mostly pythons) smacks of a biblical plague. Then there’s the tsunamis in Sri Lanka and Japan, Hurricane Katrina, Super Storm Sandy. Then there are all the sensational killings, like this newscaster in Virginia who shot two co-workers yesterday. Call me crazy, but there’s too much of this sort of thing happening and happening too quickly. It’s like there’s an acceleration of events.

  3. “Climate change” is absolutely cyclical. If the earth’s ecosystem is so fragile, it should have been messed up 150 years ago. The basic reason this has gotten out of hand is the exposure a “crisis hungry” media jumped on it, and now can’t let it go. Combine that with the “get rich quick” artists (can you say Al Gore?) with such gimmicks as selling “carbon credits” and you can see how this “emergency” because self-sustaining.

    Our challenge is to be prepared for these cycles, though they may not repeat again for centuries. It is the preparation that will make the difference and enable us to survive.

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