While the nation's east and southeast coastal regions brace for a wetter-than normal hurricane season, western and southwestern regions are sweating it out from persistent arid conditions.

Just as hurricane season ushers in a new round of emergency preparations for too much precipitation, drought also demands some definitive lifestyle changes when there's too little of the wet stuff.

The "U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook Through August 2006" from the Climate Prediction Center at the National Weather Service says heavy rainfall recently eased dry conditions that helped ignite fires in Florida, but hot, dry weather is expected to contribute to persisting or worsening drought over the High Plains region from Texas to Wyoming.

The summer forecast calls for nearly normal rainfall in the Plains this summer, but not nearly enough to keep drought conditions from persisting well into summer. Drought conditions could ease in the parched Oklahoma and Missouri region, but extreme drought will persist in the Southwest, including Arizona, New Mexico, parts of Texas, Nevada, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming.

With drought comes water shortages which warrant a heightened level of water conservation.

The American Water Works Association says there are four stages of drought each with varying levels of water shortages and appropriate responses.

  • Drought Watches typically result in 5 to 10 percent water shortages calling for voluntary conservation efforts. Do whatever you can to use less water.
  • Drought Warnings indicate there's a 10 to 20 percentage shortage of water and both voluntary and mandatory efforts to conserve may be introduced in your community to reduce use by 10 to 20 percent.
  • A Drought Emergency means there's a 20 to 35 percent shortage and municipalities can institute rationing programs of fixed allotments based on per capita or per household data. Outside water use allowed may be based on lot size, past usage or other data. Any increased allotments may come only if low-flow shower heads and ultra low-flow toilets are installed.
  • At the Critical Drought Phase there's a water shortage as high as 50 percent or more and along with allotments, water for outdoor or summer use may be banned.

    The association says a better approach than reacting to drought conditions after they arrive, is a year round conservation effort -- a sort of preventative medicine.

    Conservation before the fact minimizes and helps avoid the impact of droughts.

    The California Urban Water Conservation Council says a good place to start is with the Top Five Water Conservation Actions to curtail water use where you can save the most.

  • Plug leaks. As much as 10 percent of a household's water use is lost through leaks and it's not just indoor plumbing. Use the council's online Do-It-Yourself Leak Detection service to ferret out water losses. Also consider hiring a plumber or qualified inspector to give your system the once over.

    The water works association's "Water Wiser Drip Calculator" lets you measure and estimate how much water is wasted down the drain because of leaks.

  • Replace your old toilet. The toilet is one of the largest water users in your home and if your home was built before 1992 and the toilet has never been replaced, you probably have an inefficient flusher. Can that can. Check the date stamp inside the toilet by lifting the lid and looking at the back of the toilet at the manufacturer's imprint of the make, model and date of manufacture. Where necessary, install water efficient 1.6 gallon-per-flush toilets.
  • Replace your clothes washer. Another big gulper, your clothes washer should be Energy Star rated and have a "Water Factor" at or lower than 9.5, it should use 35-50 percent less water and 50 percent less energy per load. Savings can be had in both water and energy use. Both Energy Star and the Consortium for Energy Efficiency can point you to the most efficient models.
  • Design and plant appropriate landscaping. Select drought tolerant plants appropriate for your local climatic conditions and consider more natural landscaping or "wildscaping" including "Xeriscaping", the registered trademark for the Colorado WaterWise Council's approach to landscaping that reduces the need for water, maintenance and other resources.
  • Water only what your plants need. Most water wasted on landscaping is irrigation when it's not necessary or by not maintaining the irrigation system in peak condition. Older irrigation systems can lose more than 50 percent of the water to leaks.

    Where applicable, weather adjusting ET (for "evapotranspiration") irrigation controllers save water by automatically watering only when necessary. Irrigation controller timers with rain shutoff devices can also help you save water.

    Tomorrow: Still more ways to save water.

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    Andrea's Avatar
    Andrea replied the topic: #12037
    We lived in California and when there was a drought it was really difficult. You don't realize how precious water is until you don't have it.