Over the next couple of decades more than 400 counties in the U.S. may be going through an extreme dry spell, according to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council. How bad can it get?
You won't be able to flush the toilet during daylight hours, take a shower longer than five minutes, or wash your dishes using fresh water. Parts of the Southern plains and Western states already are facing water restrictions.
Running your sprinkler will be forbidden — just like in water-scarce Sacramento where "water police" fine homeowners for illegal lawn watering.
And since water is vital to agricultural and energy production, drought also causes exorbitant grocery bills, soaring electricity rates, and killer gas prices.
Even chilling at home with a cold one can become a pricey luxury. Right now in parts of the country breweries are being asked to reduce their water use. Mandatory reductions may make beer as expensive as a prestigious champagne.
As our population increases and our water withdrawals grow higher, cities all over the country — including Atlanta, Cleveland, Salt Lake City, and Washington D.C. — may run bone-dry by mid-century, according to NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.
You CAN take action now to help future-proof your home against drought by eliminating your home’s worst water-hogging habits.
The worst water hog is landscaping. Our yards consume 30% of our home’s total water use — more than the household yearly average for washing clothes and showering combined. What’s the problem? Up to 50% of the water we use outside is wasted on over-watering our lawns.
- Give your sprinkler a break. Grass is not supposed to be bright green during the dog days of summer, according to the EPA. So water your lawn only when it's truly thirsty. To check, step on your grass. If it doesn't spring back, it’s time to water.
- Let the grass grow. Longer grass reduces water evaporation, and /as a bonus you’ll have fewer weeds.
- Give your sprinkler system a tuneup. Leaks and clogs can waste lots of water. A broken sprinkler head can pour 25,000 gallons of water down the drain over a six month period.
- Water your lawn more efficiently with a Watersense-labeled irrigation controller. It’s like a programmable thermostat for your sprinkler system because it controls when and how much you water your lawn.
- Hydro-zone your yard by grouping plants with similar watering needs in the same area. It make it easier to avoid over-watering
- Landscape using parch-proof plants. It’s a great way to conserve water without sacrificing curb appeal.
- Go with fake turf. It’s a low maintenance solution that never needs watering.
- Check if your toilet is hemorrhaging water. Toilet leaks can waste up to 200 gallons of water daily (and that can total $840 per year!). To test for leaks put a few drops of food coloring in your toilet’s tank (but don’t flush) If the water in your bowl changes color within 15 minutes, it’s leaking.
- Have an ancient commode? Upgrade to one with the Watersense label. They use 1.28 gallons per flush (gpf) or less compared to standard toilets made after 1992 that meet the federal standard of 1.6 gpf.
- Go with a composting potty. They require little to no water, and modern models are easy to use and look like regular toilets. They're also a great solution to sanitation and environmental problems in unsewered, rural, and suburban areas.
- Check your washer's settings. Don’t opt for second rinse cycle. If you have to wash a small load use the appropriate water level or load size selection.
- Your standard washer is about to become an energy-sucking dinosaur. All basic front loaders will have to meet today's Energy Star requirements by 2015, and top loaders by 2018. If you replace your washer with an Energy Star model, you'll use around 35% less water and 20% less electricity. Giant leap:
- Have a plumber re-route your washing machine’s greywater to trees and plants rather than the sewer line.
- Wash like you’re in the Navy. To conserve water on naval ships, sailors would hop in the shower and quickly douse themselves in water, then turn off the water, get all sudsy, and turn back on the water to quickly rinse off. While a regular shower can use around 60 gallons of water, washing like a sailor can use as little as three gallons.
- Replace your standard shower and bathroom faucet fixtures with ones marked Watersense. Doing so will shave 700 gallons off your faucet use and trim 2,900 gallons per year off shower use
- Stop running your faucet or shower while waiting for it to turn hot. A hot water recirculating system can save water and energy, according to Energy Star. Instead of sending cool water that's been sitting in your home's hot water pipes when a water fixture is turned on, the system sends the cool water back to the heater via the cold water line while sending hot water directly from the heater.