Preparing for a Drought - Water For Other Uses
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Remember, too, that you need water for more than drinking. People use water for bathing, cooking, and cleaning. The U.S. government's disaster-relief agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), recommends that during a drought people have a supply of 1 gallon (3.8 l) of water per day per person to cover all the ways water is used.
Bathing and showering can use a lot of water. During a drought, take very short showers instead of filling up the bathtub for a bath. Taking sponge baths using a bit of warm water in your stoppered bathroom sink uses even less water.
Toilets may be one of the biggest water wasters in the house. This is especially true if you don't have one of the newer low-flush toilets that use no more than 1.6 gallons (6.1 l) of water per flush. (Older toilets use as much as 7 gallons [26.5 l].) You can make your own low-flush toilet. Fill a plastic gallon jug with pebbles or sand. Twist the cap on tightly. Then place the jug inside your toilet tank. The jug takes up room that would otherwise be filled by flushing water.
If you live in a drought-prone area, you might buy or make a rain barrel. Keep it outside where it can collect whatever rain does fall. Or, more specifically, keep it at the side of your house under the gutter to collect rainfall runoff from the roof of your house. You can use this water to keep houseplants alive. You can also use it to water vegetables in a vegetable garden. Using rainwater for watering plants leaves more drinking water for you and your family.
Many types of “used” water can be reused for other purposes. During a drought, it's smart to think of ways you can reuse water instead of pouring it down the drain. Suppose you poured yourself a full glass of water to drink but only drank half a glass. Save the water you didn't drink and use it for something else. Water you use for rinsing dishes may sometimes be used to water plants or to wash the car. Keep a container or jug near the sink and pour used water into it for use later.
Washing clothes in the sink may also save water if you have a water-guzzling washing machine.
Things to Do Before and During a Drought
Often, a severe drought cannot be prevented. As you've already learned, a drought is part of an area's natural climate cycle. Yet the effects of a drought can be reduced if you use water wisely. If you get used to conserving water in your everyday life, it will be easier for you and your family to get through a drought with less trouble than if you are not used to taking such measures.
There are many things you can do to conserve the water you use both inside and outside your house. Here are just a few.
- Attach aerators or flow restrictors to all your home's water faucets to reduce the flow of water.
- Repair all dripping faucets. A faucet that drips once per second wastes 2,700 gallons (10,220 l) of water per year! Check faucets and other plumbing often for drips and leaks.
- Buy water-saving, energy-efficient appliances, such as dishwashers and clothes washers. Look for the EnergyGuide on the label of the appliance.
In the bathroom:
- Use a low-flush toilet that uses very little water.
- Do not take baths. Take short showers instead. Baths use a lot more water (about 20 gallons [76 l]) than showers (about 14 gallons [53 l]).
- Use an ultra-low-flow showerhead that uses far less water than regular showerheads.
- Never leave the water running while you brush your teeth. Wet your toothbrush, turn the water off, and then turn it on again only when you need to rinse.
- Place a bucket in the bathtub when you take a shower and use it to catch extra water that flows from the showerhead; use this water for other things.
In the kitchen:
- Use a water-saving dishwasher. Run the dishwasher only when it is full, not when it's half empty.
- Use two trays to hand-wash dishes. Use one with soapy water, and the other with rinse water. Then you don't have to keep the water running when you wash and rinse the dishes.
- Save “extra” running water. If it takes a while for the water coming from your faucet to get hot, capture the cooler water in a container and save it to use for something else, like watering plants.
- Do the same for cold water. If it takes a while for your tap water to run cold, save the too-warm water for other uses. For example, collect it in a bottle or pitcher and place it in the refrigerator in order to have cold drinking water.
- Start a compost pile for vegetable waste instead of putting it down the garbage disposal. These devices need lots of water to work properly.
In the laundry room:
- Use a water-saving clothes washer, if possible.
- Use your clothes washer only when you have enough for a full load.
Outdoors and in the garden:
- Plant only native or drought-tolerant plants in your garden. Once they are growing well, these kinds of plants generally do not need to be watered to stay alive.
- Use drip irrigation in your garden to apply water directly to plant roots. This reduces evaporation and saves water, while keeping your plants healthy.
- Use mulch on your garden to hold moisture in the soil.
- Keep your grass lawn 3 inches (7.6 cm) tall. This allows grass to grow deeper roots, which retain moisture.
- Avoid using lawn sprinklers, which waste more water than ever reaches the plants’ roots. If you must water, do it in a few short sessions and apply the water close to the roots.
- Wash your car with your saved water for nondrinking purposes or take it to a professional car wash. Most recycle the water they use.
If your area experiences a severe drought, make sure you follow all the rules and guidelines set by your local or state government to save water. These rules, instituted for the specific drought predicted for your area, will be sent out by mail to all residents and/or communicated by your local TV stations and newspapers. These rules are not intended to make your life difficult. They are intended to make sure that you and your neighbors do not run out of water completely.
Learn that you should never waste water. It's precious. Your life depends on it!