What Happens After a Drought? Prepare Your Home
September 15, 2020
Earthquakes, forest fires, tornadoes, and hurricanes each have one important thing in common – they are easy to identify and define. Another extreme weather event that affects millions of Americans each year is harder to define. What exactly is a drought and how do we know when one starts and ends? Unlike floods, which immediately affect homeowners, droughts are more long term with effects that can last months or years. According to the United States Geological Survey, when a drought occurs, an entire area is affected for a prolonged period of time. When precipitation is less than normal and an area’s water supply is affected, a drought is occurring.
One important difference between a drought and normal dry conditions is a period of drier-than-normal conditions, which affects the area’s water supply. This is different than the usual dry conditions that may happen annually in an area in the summer, winter, or other months. Every area of the U.S. has a specific amount of precipitation expected to fall over the year, which is usually consistent. Some places get this precipitation in rain, others in snow. When less precipitation falls than normal over an extended period of time, the soil dries out, trees and crops die, and water in streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs dries up. If this persists, the area is said to be experiencing drought conditions.
When is a drought over?
While rainfall can help reduce the effects of a drought, a single rainstorm doesn’t mark the end of the drought conditions. In fact, during a drought, much of the water from a short rainstorm may evaporate before it impacts the plant life or soil conditions. The rest is quickly used by plants, trees, and crops and doesn’t positively impact the area’s water resources. In addition, some areas affected by drought conditions can experience flash floods during a rainstorm because the water drains quickly into rivers and streams rather than soaking into the ground. The best way to end drought conditions is soaking rains, where enough water falls over a sustained period of time to dampen and recharge the soil, sustain vegetation growth, and improve water resources like lakes and rivers. Several rainstorms over a few weeks or months may be needed before a drought ends.
How drought conditions affect our lives
We may not truly understand how important water is to our everyday lives until we don’t have enough of it. From watering local crops to filling swimming pools and keeping our yards green and trees healthy and shady, a community’s water resources are essential to everyday life. During a drought, the amount of water in reserve can be impacted and restrictions for use put in place. Droughts can also cause increases in produce prices and impact local plant and wildlife. Some communities also use water to generate the power they use. When drought conditions affect the water resources in an area, many lives are impacted in different ways.
Drought impacts can be grouped three ways – economic, environmental, and social. Economic drought impacts include crop losses, recreational business losses (i.e., boating and fishing), and an increase in prices for home water delivery. The environmental impacts can be widespread and include destruction of wildlife habitats, an increase in wildfires, and soil erosion (impacting crop yields). Social impacts include a reduction in recreation areas and activities, health problems, income reduction, and stress. Here are some ways communities are preparing for drought conditions in advance to help minimize the impact of a drought.
Reducing drought effects on our homes
If an area is experiencing dry conditions or a sustained drought, there are things homeowners can do in advance to reduce the impacts on their homes and lawns. The first thing to do to prepare is to pay attention. Many cities and states provide information on drought conditions on their website or via email alerts. If homeowners don’t rely on water for your business like a farmer or rancher does, they may not follow along closely with changing weather conditions in their area. But if anyone wants to protect their own home and lawn from a drought, it’s best to do so.
Thirty to 45 days before dry conditions are expected, it’s time for homeowners to increase their lawn maintenance. Just like preparing for summer heat, homeowners need to prepare their lawns to fight against drought conditions with regular watering, organic mulch and fertilizer, and mowing that leaves at least two inches of grass or more. Leaving two to three inches of grass improves the moisture retention of the lawn. During a drought, leave lawn clippings on the yard and restrict watering to only the most important areas.
Saving water resources with small daily changes
Once water resources are being impacted by a drought, homeowners can help reduce their own impact by saving water. From taking shorter showers to turning off the tap, anyone can make a big impact on their daily water use. To help save the lawn, water less often (no more than once a week) and only late at night or early in the morning to reduce evaporation. Water more near the building, where heat can be reflected onto the yard, and on sloped areas where runoff occurs. Collect rainwater or recycled water from home use to use to water the plants and yard.
Before a drought, ensure the plant beds and trees are generously mulched with organic materials to improve the effects of watering. Plants that are new need extra care when water is tight. Consider treating them with organic products that help reduce water loss and improve nutrients in the soil. Eliminate the use of nitrogen fertilizer and increase the use of potassium fertilizer instead. Homeowners can help reduce the stress of drought conditions on plants by pruning them, removing dead limbs to enhance new growth.
Protecting a home after a drought
During drought conditions, shrinking soil and soil erosion can occur due to a sustained lack of water in the soil. Soil shrinkage or erosion is one of the main environmental conditions that can impact a home’s foundation. If an area has experienced drought conditions, homeowners need to ensure they conduct a regular professional home inspection that includes inspecting the home’s foundation, basement, or crawl space is more important than ever. Learn more about creating a healthy home environment here. To get a free home inspection, contact local foundation repair professionals.