I am a native Californian, so I have been through drought before. Many states are affected by this now, so you are going to need to take preparation steps and learn actions that will benefit you in conserving your community’s water, while keeping your water bill as low as possible. As water levels go down, prices will go up, and mandatory rationing will be enforced.
If you grow vegetables yearly, then you are going to need to take steps to conserve water in that area, too. There are ways to do this so that you adjust you usage to help keep your garden producing and limiting use elsewhere in your daily life. You and your family will have to make sacrifices of comfort for the other priorities of having a living food supply.
First off, you are going to need to have stored water. I use a formula of calculating at six bottles of water, per person, per day. This way, a case of bottled water is a one day supply for a family of four. Ten case is a ten-day supply and so on. Read here about storing water in many ways: Storing Water
Next, you should install low-flow water devices in your home, such as low-flow toilets, faucet and shower heads. Also install a shower turn shut-off valve so you can turn the water flow off while you lather up, wash your body, and then turn it on to rinse. Teach your entire family about turning the water off while brushing teeth and soaping up in the shower. You should shower in stages or body zones. Here are some low-flow devices to view: Low-Flow Water Saving Devices
You can also find ways to conserve water with High-Efficiency clothes washers that use much less water than the conventional washers. This is an investment that will come back to you over the years in the form of lower water bills. We did this over a year ago because we saw the drought coming. It’s actually been many years of drought, leading to a combined lack of rainfall that happens in cycles over hundreds of years, so I wasn’t telling the future in some mystical way.
WHAT TO DO:
Let’s start with looking at some priorities…..
Keeping hydrated is the first priority, because the air will be drier in your area. This goes for your pets and surrounding wildlife as well. I keep a bird bath clean and full, and a bowl of water low on the ground for other thirsty animals. If the wildlife in your area becomes dehydrated, they are more susceptible to disease. Also, if they die, then disease can grow out of their bodies and spread to a community in airborne ways.
You should familiarize yourself and your family with heat stroke and heat exhaustion signs and symptoms, so you and they know the right thing to do in either one of these heat and dehydration conditions. With one, you need to cool the person down as quickly as possible. The other one, you have the be careful not to feed them too much water, while one requires that you hydrate them immediately. Both have similar symptoms and yet some are different.
Here is some information for you to study on this: Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion
I’m not preaching here, but alcoholic beverages will serve to dehydrate you. So will other drinks and foods that have diuretic properties. I offer this truth not to stop you from enjoying them, but to alert you to where you might have to increase your water intake if you eat or drink these food and drink items, so that you compensate for loss of hydration. Here is substantiating information: Diuretic Foods
Second is your cleanliness, which can be maintained very nicely without a lot of water. Here is a step by step, zone by zone method of showering that I learned at a young age when growing up during a drought…
Straight-away, let me suggest that a plant watering container be kept in your wash area to be use to catch the cooler water while you wait for warmer water to flow from the tap in the shower or any other faucet. This captured water can be used to cool off with, wash darker cooler clothing, and to water plants.
Zone one: The head, face, and upper torso. Wet your body down and then turn the shut-off valve to stop the flow of water. Soap your upper torso, and then add your shampoo to your hair and then wash your upper torso, face, and hair. If you have to condition, then add the conditioner after this stage and let it sit while you complete the next stages and rinse together with the last stage’s rinse.
Zone two: Your private parts. because this area came be more bacterial contaminated, you should have two stages to this area, “washing your rear first” and then washing and rinsing before doing the front area of your private parts to avoid infections. It’s just a cross-contamination procedure that is very important to both men and women, alike, even though we are different in our terrain down there. Then complete the rest in the next stage downward.
Zone three: Front of middle, legs and feet. Soap and rinse entire body, including conditioner if used. Make sure your feet are last, as they are a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus. We don’t want that anywhere else.
This entire shower should used less than two gallons of water. For a family of four, that’s 8 gallons per day, and 240 gallons on average per month. If anyone has a very dirty job, then an extra shower is necessary at the end of the shift for safety and cleanliness, as harmful compounds should be washed off as soon as possible.
Third is the vegetables you grow that provide you with nutrition and stored prep food. There are many different drip emitters and coordinating systems that can be installed to limit the water directly around the plant’s root balls, so less water is used. Here are some devices and systems to view: Drip Watering Systems
Here is what we actually do to conserve water every time we garden, whether a drought is occurring or not. We don’t have much adjustment to make in our everyday lives. Here an example of gardening in pots: Potted Gardening
Here is some great information about techniques to conserve water in your vegetable garden. Natural Water Conservation
Creating a rain water capturing system is a wise decision. Amazingly, this practice is illegal in some counties and states. Why is not rationally clear, as any reason other than mosquito concerns, would be ludicrous. There are many methods to use for capturing rain water with rain barrels and tanks. Here is one very innovative method that someone made from just a few parts: Rain Water Barrel
I learned a saying back in the 1970’s. “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down”. Even with a low-flow toilet of 1.5 gallons per flush, you can save up to six gallons per flush using this phrase of action. We even had signs in the bathrooms with this phrase in design. Using this method, you can save upwards of 700 gallons per month in a household of four.
The captured water you have in a plant watering container can be used to fill the toilet reservoir as well, to save on water needed to fill it through the regular mechanical way from the service pipe. In an emergency as well, any saved or captured water from even rain can be used in this way.
There is also the composting toilet. Learn more about this here: Humanure
I will not be using grey water unless it is a very serious situation, and then only for flushing the toilet. My father put casters on 55-gallon drums he used to catch the grey water from the clothes washer back in the drought of the 1970’s. One of my chores was to dump it on the lawn. He told me a story of how his family would save the pee from the household when he was young, to use on the rose bushes during a drought period. They were accused of not rationing water because their roses looked so good.
Here is information on using grey water in the garden and other areas: Grey Water Use
Your lawn is not a priority and neither are landscaping plants that have heavy water needs and aren’t edible. You can install drip systems with emitters at the base of the plant, to water just the root ball, but these plants that do not produce food are not a priority in a serious drought situation. Long showers and comfort is not a priority. If you are gluttonous with your water supply, it may not be there in the future. It will disappear faster if everyone is not on the same page in conserving.
As water reservoirs get low, so does the area available for fish and other life forms that occupy the water. I have seen lakes that get too low to sustain the life in them, become rancid and unsafe to drink even with boiling done. As the water supply reduces, so will the level of quality of the water supply. You need to have a large back up supply of water for this reason.
Drought is an emergency situation that may lead to a disaster situation. Civilizations have been lost to drought and this technologically advanced one is not immune to a threat of losing to drought. If the drought becomes severe enough, people could be forced to migrate to where the water is, and that will strain other areas. Moving water from one area to another that is suffering drought, has the same affect as any migration of people to the water supply in the area it is being transferred from.
Droughts are nothing to take lightly, or to consider as a regional issue. Here is some history on droughts: Historic Droughts
Note: Water is the most important resource in the world for sustaining all life. It is not to be used as a dumping ground or to be used unwisely. It should always be treated with respect and not overused. It can also become toxic at any moment due to the actions of the human species, as seen in West Virginia lately. That disaster is far from over. In a drought period, this is even more serious, as wells can also be contaminated. Make sure you have enough private water stored to last you and your family for a year or more, if possible. At the least, purchase water filtration devices. See some here: Water Filters