If you drew a picture representing the word “drought,” your stick figure might be sweating, the blue sky might be cloudless, and black zigzags toward the bottom of the page might represent cracks in the soil.
And if you’re lakeside, the bowl-shaped hole might be filled only halfway with water.
Drought has some universal descriptions despite the types of effects it has on you personally. Water is, after all, essential to our life. Water is also a limited resource.
So, what exactly is drought?
Drought is essentially less precipitation (rain or snow) than normal over a period of time. That period of time can be a matter of weeks or years as we saw from 2011 – 2014. And, there are degrees of drought. From a slight lack of rainfall leaving brown landscapes to the ground-cracking, lake-draining exceptional situations that have lasting, long-term effects.
It’s not just a lack of rain or snowfall. People also play a role in drought. Wasting water during times of normal rainfall leads to a lack of water stored and available during dry times. Making every drop count makes a huge difference, whether it’s turning off the water while you brush your teeth or fixing a leaky faucet.
Unfortunately, you can’t really see a drought coming. Often tied to a La Nina weather pattern that can change with the winds, there is no clear beginning and end like other natural hazards, such as floods, tornadoes, or hurricanes. Drought creeps up slowly. It may be weeks before you realize your yard has turned brown, or your water bill has skyrocketed trying to keep it green. It could be months before you notice there is not as much water in a nearby lake.
Drought affects us in so many ways. Water is needed to grow the food we eat, to keep power plants functioning to provide you electricity, to quench the thirst. Drought has environmental, economic, and social impacts. Those impacts can be temporary or permanent.
It’s vital that the Brazos River Authority works to keep its reservoirs as full as possible to ensure there is water available to last until the drought breaks, so downstream releases will be minimal.
And, it is extremely important that we don’t wait until conditions become dire before we become more careful with our water use.
Here are a few suggestions:
• Replace showerheads with a more efficient low flow model. A new showerhead can save up to six gallons of water per minute.
• If you have a leak, fix it! Replace worn washers and valves on sinks and pipes. A leaking faucet can waste more than 3,820 gallons of water a year.
• Fill the sink with water instead of running it continuously while brushing your teeth or shaving.
• Run the dish or clothes washers only when fully loaded.
• Don’t leave the water running while doing dishes; fill the sink with soapy water and rinse as needed.
• Upgrade to a high-efficiency washer. Most newer models use up to 40 percent less water and energy than a conventional washer.
• Don’t over-water your lawn. Set sprinklers for times when it is the coolest to avoid evaporation.
• Cover pools and spas when you’re not using them to help against evaporation in the summer.
• Choose your plants wisely! Buy plants that are native and can take the heat waves.
• Don’t cut your lawn too short. Longer grass absorbs water better than short grass.
• Use lots of mulch in your flower beds and around trees to help hold in moisture.
• If you wash your car at home, use a bucket of soapy water and a nozzle on the hose that you can turn on and off.
These are just a few suggestions. There are many more things you can do around the house to save water. You might consider involving the whole family. Make a game of finding creative ways to conserve. Get the kiddoes thinking about being water-wise now to start them on a lifetime as stewards of this most precious resource.
With a finite resource such as water, completely meeting everyone’s needs is rarely, if ever, possible. When it comes to freshwater, there is only so much to go around to meet Texas’s growing population’s needs.
Everyone can contribute to ensuring water exists for generations to come.