4 Key Steps Communities Take for Drought Survival

Drought survival depends on the selflessness, creativity and cooperation of a community to ensure there is enough water to go around during a drought.


Unlike other natural disasters, droughts don’t have a definite endpoint. For hurricanes and tornadoes, the storms that produce them will fizzle out, and while the cleanup efforts may take weeks, months or even years, the natural disaster itself is over.

Droughts, however, often have a long-lasting financial, economic, social and physical impact on the affected area and its occupants — animals or humans. The key to drought survival for an area depends on people willing to find alternatives to excessive water usage, and their ability to get creative when it comes to their basic needs.

Droughts occur when precipitation levels drop below average for an area, forcing residents to become conscious of their water-usage habits as the resource becomes scarce. Communities typically follow a drought plan that requires residents to increasingly limit their water usage, such as designated lawn-watering days during a mild drought to suspending business at local carwashes for severe drought survival.

#1 Conserve Water with Daily Tasks

Household water use is much greater than many people think, which they often don’t realize until they’re faced with a drought that puts limits on that use. On the plus side, there are small changes that can be made that, when added up, make a big difference in the amount of water used.

Turn off the faucet. Whether you’re washing your hands, your teeth or your face, turn the water off when you’re not actually using it. Leaving the faucet running while brushing your teeth uses an average of five gallons of water that could be saved.

Take shorter showers. While relaxing under the warm water may be a beloved morning ritual, those wasted minutes are gallons down the drain. Resolve to spend your time in the shower doing only what needs to be done, and shut the water off as soon as possible, including while shaving.

Use the trashcan. Many people have a habit of flushing things they shouldn’t, or that aren’t necessary to flush. When using tissues to blow your nose, or touch up makeup, throw it in thrash instead of the toilet, eliminating the need for an extra flush.

Run only full loads. When using the dishwasher or washing machine, make sure to load it with as many dishes or clothes as possible to cut down on multiple loads.

#2 Invest in Technology to Reduce Water Usage

For a more permanent and environmentally-friendly solution, consider investing in home improvement technologies that focus on reducing water waste for drought survival.

  • Installing low-flow faucet aerators on your bathroom sinks and shower head can save up to 45 gallons a day per household.
  • Dual flush toilets reduce the amount of water used per flush and make a big difference, considering a family of four uses 881 gallons of water per week just by flushing.
  • Consider installing a system that reuses greywater — water leftover from baths, showers, washing dishes and laundry machines — for irrigation purposes.

Lower water usage also results in less energy usage, as well. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if 1 percent of American homes upgraded to a WaterSense labeled toilet, the country would save more than 38 million kilowatt-hours of electricity – which could power 43,000 households each month.

#3 Capture Rainwater

While precipitation may be scarce during a drought, be sure to make the most of it when it does fall. Rain barrels make it easy to catch rain without using complicated system of spouts, and can even be substituted by plastic children’s pools.

In 2015, Colorado proposed a plan that would utilize the melting snow from its mountains, two-thirds of which is spoken for through treaties by lower states and countries that Colorado’s rivers run through. The final third, however, is a key ingredient for the state as the West becomes drier. The plan encouraged better options for water storage, including the construction of dams and reservoirs to adequately capture their share of the water.

#4 Work as a Community

Water is a necessity for sustained human existence, but is also a non-renewable resource, which means it’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure we’re conserving our use for future generations. For drought survival, this means every member of a community needs to be on board with water-saving limitations.

Ask your neighbors if they need help installing low-flow faucets or dual flush solutions in the bathroom. Offer to install and transport water collected in a rain barrel for elderly residents. Every step to limit water usage and conserve is useful.

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of FireRescue1.com and EMS1.com. In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.