Droughts are becoming more common thanks to the average temperatures increasing year after year. A drought is a longer period of time with less-than-average rainfall. Due to our climate changing we may experience more frequent and severe droughts in the future.

That is why it is important to know how to handle and respond to droughts. Or maybe you just want to be a good citizen of the earth and reduce your overall water consumption even during non-drought periods. That's the spirit!


1. Prepare a water rationing plan

Droughts can vary in length. In the United States the longest drought in modern times lasted 56 months and took place in the 1950s. That is why it is important to understand how to plan and ration your supplies.

  • The average human requires 3/4 gallon (2.8L) of water per day to live - This number includes not only drinking water but also sanitation. However when planning round up and consider 1 person = 1 gallon (3.7L) per day.
  • Children, nursing mothers, or people with chronic illness require more water - stock more than 1 gallon per day for a person or persons with these cases.
  • Have some extra supply for medical emergencies - if someone gets sick or injured they will need to drink more water and you may need to clean their wounds with water as well.
  • Make sure everyone in your household knows their water limits during emergency drought rationing.
  • If the situation gets very bad do not over-ration to the point of dehydration. Hikers have been found dead despite having water left due to overly conserving their water. Find solutions to reduce other sources of water usage but keep drinking as the priority.

2. Stock gallons of bottled water

Based on your prepared emergency drought plan stock enough water for at least a week. Use this water as a LAST RESORT after you have exhausted all other sources including tap water or water extraction methods.

3. Build a rain catch system

Multi-Drum Rainfall Catch System

Thousands of gallons of water fall on your home every year. You can stock this water and use it to water your plants, clean and reduce your water bill even during non-drought times. Installing a rain catch system is easy:

  • Buy a large drum (55 Gallons is the standard size) from the hardware store. You can get several if you plan to build up a stock of rainwater.
  • Place the drum under a downspout gutter.
  • If you don't have any gutters place the system under a corner of your roof where the water drains off during rain.
  • You can connect multiple drums together to create a larger reservoir fore easier collection and use.
  • Rainwater is not safe for drinking. Only drink it after boiling for 3 minutes in an emergency.

4. Repair any leaks in your home

Leaky pipes can waste thousands of gallons per year. This will not only waste precious water during drought but also drive up your water bill during n0n-drought times as well.

  • Check your water meter. Wait 30 minutes without using any water. Check it again. If you see water used during that period there is a leak somewhere.
  • Check all faucets in your kitchen and bathrooms. Check the handles as well, water can escape through them.
  • Check your toilet tanks and make sure no water is leaking from the back. Put food coloring in the tank and wait 30 minutes. If some of the color is in your bowl you have a leaky seal.
  • If you do not manage to find the source of the leak/s, call a plumber to have them inspect your home.

5. Use water efficient appliances

Household appliances, especially older ones, use a lot of water. Upgrading to modern water-efficient appliances will help you save money on your water bill and prepare you for future droughts. In addition to upgrading your appliances you can:

  • Get low-flow shower heads
  • Get a low-volume toilet

6. Turn water off when not in use

You may not realize certain habits you or your family have. For example - retrain yourself to turn off the water while you brush your teeth, if you are not in this habit already. Keep the water off while you shave. During drought you might even consider to turn off the shower while you wash up!

7. Reuse water that would be wasted

During extreme water rationing you can collect water from the sink that would have drained away. Use this to water plants or for other purposes. When you run the shower to warm up the water either tough it out during the colder portion or collect that water to use for other purposes.

8. Stop watering your lawn

Either stop watering your lawn completely or use water from your water collection system instead of from the tap. If you do continue watering your lawn set a timer to avoid overwatering. During extreme drought your local government may forbid watering your lawn entirely. Consider saving plant water for plants that produce food or herbs instead of using it on your lawn.

Water Conservation Bonus Points

1. Patronize business that conserve water

Some restaurants serve water only on request. If you notice a business, for example, who stopped watering their lawn, emptied their pool, reduced their plants they are likely practicing water conservation. Tell your friends in the neighborhood about them to encourage this and other business to follow.

2. Attend local meetings on water conservation

During times of drought most towns will have regular meetings to discuss water policy. Give suggestions, listen and participate.

  • Check with your local government offices in town or city hall.
  • Check the newspaper, sometimes the meetings are advertised there.
  • If there are no meetings on this topic, start your own local citizens committee on water conservation.

3. Petition the local government to practice water conservation

As you "drought-proofed" your home and improved your own water conservation so can your local government. If they are not actively doing so already organize a petition and get your friends and neighbors to sign it. Deliver it to your local authorities and if that does not work contact your local newspaper.

You can also push them to improve water pollution. Polluted water is not useable and will have an even bigger impact during droughts.