Droughts occur when areas receive less rainfall than expected over an extended period of time, usually several months or longer. A prolonged drought can have serious impact on families, drops and livestock.


Planning ahead can help protect your family, livestock and crops. Below are some tips to help minize the impact and speed recovery.



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Conserving water at home - before, during and after a drought


General water conservation measures

  • Check your faucets, pipes and toilets for leaks; even a small faucet leak can waste as much as 20 gallons of water.
  • Do not pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it (e.g., watering plants or a garden).
  • When purchasing a new appliance, choose one that is more energy and water efficient.

Conserve water in the bathroom

  • Turn off the water while you brush your teeth, wash your face, or shave, instead of leaving the faucet running.
  • Install aerators with flow restrictors on all household faucets.
  • Replace your shower heads with low-flow heads, which use less water.
  • Install a low-flow toilet to replace your existing model; this can cut your home water consumption by 20 percent.
  • Install a toilet displacement device.
    • Place a one-gallon jug of water to displace toilet flow.
    • Do not use a brick, it may dissolve and loose pieces may cause damage to internal parts.

Conserve water in the kitchen

  • Run your dishwasher only it is full; select the water-saving cycle if you have that feature.
  • Store drinking water in the refrigerator to avoid the need to run water in the sink to get it cold.
  • Clean fruits and vegetables in a pan filled with water rather than running water from the tap; reuse the pan water for other purposes (e.g., watering plants).
  • Hand wash dishes by filling two containers - one with soapy water, the other with rinse water containing a small amount of chlorine bleach.
  • Avoid rinsing dishes prior to putting them in the dishwasher.
  • Kitchen sink disposals require lots of water to operate properly; start a compost pile as an alternate method of disposing of food waste.

Conserve water while doing laundry

  • Operate automatic clothes washers only when they are fully loaded.
  • Set the water level for the appropriate size of your load to avoid wasting water.

Conserve water outdoors

  • Do not overwater your lawn. Lawns only need to be watered every five to seven days in the summer.
  • Water lawns in the ealry morning hours when temperatures and wind speeds are the lowest; this reduces evaporation and waste.
  • Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees that can survive dry periods without watering.
  • Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil.



During a drought


Stay informed

  • Monitor potential drought conditions in your area at the U.S. Drought Monitor website (click here to access)
  • Listen to the radio or television for situation developments and instruction for water conservation or restrictions in your area.

Increase your water conservation measures

  • Limit how much water each person in your household may use.
  • Do not flush toilets if it is not necessary.
  • Wash things only when it is necessary to do so. Only wash a full load.
  • Do not take baths - take short showers instead. Turn on the water to get wet and rinse; lather with the water off.
  • Use bottled water when possible - such as for brushing your teeth, washing your face or hands.



This information was excerpted from "All-Hazards Preparedness for Rural Communities," produced by the Multi-State Partnership for Security in Agriculture and Iowa State University's Center for Food Security & Public Health. Click here to access their website.