Can We Protect Ourselves From Drought? (2022)

Drought is different from tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. It can be more difficult to detect and it can last much longer than other weather events. We don’t have “watches” or “warnings” for drought like we do for othernatural hazards. But just because drought is different from the other natural disasters doesn’t mean we can’t plan for it and take steps to help protect ourselves from the effects of drought. In fact, the National Drought Mitigation Center helps people plan for drought.

What does mitigation mean?

When you want to cross a street, you look both ways before crossing, don’t you? Of course you do! Looking both ways before crossing the street is a very simple thing that you can do to help reduce your risk of being injured by oncoming traffic. Reducing your risk of being injured would be an action that mitigates harm to you.

When we think about mitigation as it relates to drought,mitigationmeans taking actions before, or at the beginning of, drought to help reduce the impacts (or effects) of drought.We can do many things to mitigate drought. Let’s take a look at the ways that people, communities, states, and the nation can reduce drought risk.

In this section, we’ll learn about things we can do to ahead of time to prepare for drought in our communities and our environment. These things include making drought plans, conserving water, buildingdamsand other structures that help us store water, and learning about drought and your environment.

Understanding Drought and the Environment

The first step that we can take to mitigate drought is to understand drought and our environment. By learning about drought on this website, you have already taken a step to reduce your risk to drought. It is very important that we all understand drought and also very important that we understand the environment where we live.

(Video) Tips on how to protect your home from drought conditions

Just like you have certain characteristics, such as your hair color or even foods you like, the environment where you live also has characteristics. The climate where you live can be thought of as a characteristic of your environment. Other characteristics of your environment might be whether there are forests or grasslands, or whether you live in the mountains or by a river or ocean.The characteristics of your environment hold clues about how often you might expect to experience drought, what the impacts of drought would be, and steps you and your community can take to protect yourselves and your environment from drought.

Here are a few clues to help you start finding information about drought and your environment.

Is Your Region or City Experiencing Drought?

TheU.S. Drought Monitoridentifies which areas of the United States are experiencing drought conditions and how severe the conditions are.Check out themapto see whether your area is experiencing drought right now.

The Drought Atlas is a great tool to help you find out how often drought has occurred in your area.Some areas are more likely to have droughts, or to have droughts that last for longer periods of time, than other areas.Take a look at the Drought Atlas to check up on your area.

Knowing how often drought has occurred in your area can help you understand how likely it is that a drought will occur in your area in the future.Scientists study these patterns and make forecasts of where and when drought might happen. Check out theClimate Prediction Centerwebsite to find the drought outlook for your area.

What Are the Impacts of Drought in Your Area?

If you know whatimpactsdrought is having on your community and your environment,you can take steps that will help protect you from drought. TheDrought Impact Reporteris a tool that shows drought impacts across the United States. You can use it to see past and present impacts, and you can alsosend us informationabout how drought is affecting your community or environment. We’d love to hear from you!

Where Does Your Water Come From?

When you turn on the faucet in your house, water comes streaming out. Do you know where that water comes from, before it comes through the pipes in your house? The answer to that question depends on where you live. It is very important to know where your water comes from to understand how drought might put your water supply at risk. Let’s take a quick look at some water sources.


Many people get their water from wells dug deep (or sometimes not so deep) into the ground. People who live in rural areas often have their own wells, which deliver water to their house or farm only. Some towns and cities also havegroundwaterwells that supply water to the people and businesses in the city.

Surface Water

People who do not get their water from groundwater most likely get water from rivers or large lakes calledreservoirs. The water is then pumped into towns and cities using pipes, canals, or other devices.

Many great resources are available to help you learn more about water sources. You can also ask your parents or check your city or county website to find out where your water comes from.

Tell Others about Your Drought Research

Some students have made their own drought websites. You can do the same thing to describe drought, especially in your region. You can also point out projects to your teachers that they can use in the classroom to help others learn about drought.

Water Conservation

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One of the easiest steps we can take to help mitigate the impacts of drought is conserving water. If we use water wisely at all times, more water will be available to us and to plants and wildlife when a drought happens.Let’s take a look at a few simple ways you and your community can conserve water.

Make Every Drop Count

We can lose a lot of water doing simple everyday tasks. Did you know that turning off the water while you brush your teeth can save more than 100 gallons of water a month? If you have a leaky faucet, the drips can add up to 300 gallons of wasted water a month.

Water-saving Devices

Just shutting off the faucet or fixing a leak can save a lot of water. Another way to save water is to install devices that use less water to perform everyday tasks. For example, we use the most water in our homes when we take a shower or flush the toilet. Companies now sell low-flow toilets and showerheads that can cut the amount of water used in half. People are even beginning to use composting toilets that require no water. Also, new washing machines and dishwashers use much less water than older machines.

Many cities have programs to help people buy these new water-saving devices. Check with your city to find out if they have these programs. Remember, saving water also means saving money.

Farmers and businesses are also using new inventions to help them reduce the amount of water they use to grow crops or manufacture things. New sprinkler irrigation systems can reduce water use by spraying the water out with less force so more gets to the plant and less evaporates or blows away. Some drip irrigation systems use less water by directing the water directly to the plant’s roots. If you have a garden or if your parents water your lawn, many similar devices are available for use around the home too.


Another great way that you can reduce the amount of water used around your house is through xeriscaping.It’s a funny-looking word, but it is a fun way to conserve water!Xeriscapingis a type of landscaping that uses little water by only using plants that are native to the area you live in.

Native plants usually need less water to grow or can make better use of the water that is available to them than other types of grasses, trees, and shrubs. People who do this type of landscaping also find creative ways to use rocks or other types of ground covers in their yards or even in front of their businesses. The keys to xeriscaping are to use only as much water as the plants need and to choose landscaping designs and plants that make use of the available rainfall.

Xeriscaping is very common in drier places like Arizona, New Mexico, and even Utah, but it is catching on all across the United States and many parts of the world.You can learn more from your local extension service or landscaping or nursery businesses in your towns.

(Video) Protecting Your Home From Drought

Water Recycling

Businesses, cities, and people are finding new ways to save water by reusing it. Many businesses have startedrecycling waterthat they use in their manufacturing process.Instead of letting water run down the drain, the water is collected, cleaned (if needed) and run back through the system.

Many cities and other types of businesses are using “gray water” (waste water that is treated and cleaned) to water golf courses and city parks.Water parks like Denver Water World are recycling the splash water into other areas of the water park.

Pollution Prevention

Protecting the quality of water we have available is another extremely important step in reducing our risk from drought. We may do enough to conserve the quantity of water available to us by reducing how much water we use.But if our water becomespollutedwe won’t be able to use that water for our daily activities. Polluted water will also harm plants and wildlife in our environment.

Chemicals that we use in our houses or on our lawns and crops are very common pollutants. Other pollutants that can easily end up in our water are oil and gas from our cars and chemicals from businesses and mining. These pollutants get into the water supply through runoff, spills, and applying or using more chemicals than we really need.

We have many laws to protect our water supplies from chemicals used in businesses, mining, and farming, but very few (if any) laws to protect our water from the chemicals we use in our houses and cars and on our yards. So it is very important to learn about the chemicals you use to clean your house, fertilize your lawn, and run your family’s car. It’s very important to make sure they are stored in places where they won’t get spilled and that you follow the directions for their use. Only use what you need, and only when you need it.

You can also find different cleaners that are nontoxic and safer for you and our water. You can use different methods, such as composting, to fertilize the plants in your yard. You can learn more about ways to prevent pollution by using the links in our resources.Your city, extension service, or state department of environmental quality may also have information about preventing pollution.

Storing and Moving Water

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Understanding where your water comes from will help you understand what you can do to mitigate the effects of drought. Your water supply might be from surface waters (water on the surface of the earth, like rivers) or from groundwater (water that is under the surface of the earth). Conserving water is the best way for us to make sure that we all have water even when we are in drought. But sometimes, if a drought is very severe or if people don’t use less water, we have to make sure we have enough water. Let’s take a look at some ways to store water and get that stored water to people when it’s needed.


Many people rely on rain or snow that flows into rivers for their water. When we have a drought, we might not have enough rain or snow to keep enough water in the river for all the people who need the water. To make sure that they have enough water throughout the year, people builddamsto store water when they need it.

When a dam is built on a river, a large lake, called a reservoir, is made. The reservoir “stores” the water for people’s use.Reservoirs can provide fish and wildlife habitat and also are often great places for us to boat and fish.They also can be used to produce power.

About 75,000 large dams have been built in the United States, and that number is continuing to grow. However, in some places, dams are being removed from rivers.Dams do help us, but they have some drawbacks. Reservoirs can provide some fish and wildlife habitat, but they can also create problems for the health of the fish and wildlife that live in the river. Dams also wear down over the years and can create safety problems. So, because of some of the drawbacks of dams, people are always looking for new ways to store or protect our water supplies.

Groundwater and Wells

Another source of water is groundwater (water found below the surface of the earth).Aquifersare like underground lakes. Just like lakes above the ground, aquifers can be different sizes.Some are very small and some are very large, like the Ogallala Aquifer.The Ogallala Aquifer is under parts of South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The Ogallala Aquifer holds enough water to cover all of the United States with water that would be one and a half feet deep.

People drill wells into aquifers so they can bring water to the surface to use.Water in aquifers can be just a few feet below the earth’s surface or hundreds of feet deep. The water that is closer to the surface is easier for us to use, but it can also be more easily polluted than the water that is much deeper.

When we have a drought, people may drill more wells for irrigation or even to make sure that a city has enough drinking water. People may also have to drill wells deeper into the aquifer to find enough water to use. If people use too much water, they may not be able to drill deep enough to get enough water to use.

Canals and Pipelines

Water canals and pipelines have been built in many places to make sure that as many people as possible have access to water supplies. Canals and pipelines are used to transport water from reservoirs and wells to farmers for irrigation and cities for drinking water. Canals like the Central Arizona Project and the Los Angeles Aqueduct carry billions of gallons of water each year to areas that do not have enough water.

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We need fresh water for drinking, for our daily activities, and for growing our food. But almost all of the water on the surface of the earth is salt water from the oceans and seas. In fact, 97 percentof all water on earth is salt water.

People have been trying to find a way to use ocean water in place of fresh water for many years.With new technology, turning seawater into water that we can drink and use is becoming much easier and much cheaper.Desalination, or removing salt from seawater, is still expensive, but some cities in the United States and other countries are building desalination plants to help them meet their water needs.

The Tampa Bay Desalination Project in Florida is the largest desalination plant of its kind in the United States. Other plants are being planned in states such as California, Texas, and Hawaii. Other countries, like Japan and Korea, also have desalination plants.


How can we prevent drought and drought preparation strategies? ›

Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees. They don't need water as frequently and usually will survive a dry period without watering. Install water efficient irrigation devices, such as micro and drip irrigation and soaker hoses. Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil.

How can we prevent drought and climate change? ›

Drought Prevention and Preparation

We can't control the weather. But by limiting our climate change contributions, reducing water waste, and using water more efficiently, we can prepare for—and maybe even curb—future dry spells.

Why is it important to prevent drought? ›

Insufficient water availability can mean that crops will not survive leading to poor harvests. This can affect health through lack of nutrition, local livelihoods, and the wider economy. Lower crop yields and reduced access to water leaves livestock vulnerable and at risk.

The rodents are natural engineers who can restore wetlands.

They restore wetlands that absorb carbon, store water, filter pollution and clean and cool waters for salmon and trout.. There’s a strong consensus among scientists and environmental managers on the benefits of working with beavers to protect our natural environments.. California alone has lost an estimated 90% of its wetland area .. Humans continue to tear down beavers’ dams and lodges when they get in our way.. Watershed scientists and state and federal land managers can identify the thousands of streams most suited to beavers.. Simple steps can help bring them to watersheds in need — whether that means helping restore river environments to attract dispersing juvenile beavers from existing nearby populations, or reintroducing beavers to locations where they had thrived before the fur trade and habitat degradation destroyed them as well as their homes.. Their dams and canals slow the flow of streams and rivers, spreading water across the floodplain.. All of this builds and maintains wetlands.. And beaver wetlands help combat drought because their dams raise water levels so the ground stores water like a sponge, percolating out in drier seasons, which keeps streams flowing instead of going dry.. This would be a big ask for beavers on their own, so we helped.. This work attracted the first beavers from other environments.. Water soaked the ground in storage that gradually filtered back out, offsetting dry spells.. Stream-side communities might worry that letting a wild dam builder loose might spur flooding that could damage property.. The main costs of beaver-based stream restoration involve helping them get a foothold by starting restoration work ourselves and, where necessary, transporting beavers to the right natural site.. Groups that protect wildlife, fisheries and wetlands should join forces across the West to make beavers integral to a coordinated climate change response.

As central as fireworks are to celebrating the summer holidays, many Utahns already live in places with prohibitions in place due to high risk of wildfires.

With the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day just around the corner, and Utah facing yet another drought -ridden summer, state leaders are asking Utahns to exercise caution when using personal fireworks.. “Using fireworks in nonapproved areas — near dry grass and brush — and not having a proper way to extinguish a fire has been disastrous in the past and could be again this year,” Cox said.. A recent Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found that more than a third of Utahns say government entities should be the only ones allowed to set off fireworks, and a quarter say fireworks should not be used at all.. As central as fireworks are to celebrating the summer holidays, many Utahns already live in places with prohibitions in place due to high risk of wildfires .. Personal fireworks were a staple around the Fourth for Zachariah Jarvis, until he moved to the east bench of Bountiful three years ago.. Jarvis said he misses setting off his own fireworks, and his son is “very disappointed” every year, but he agrees with the decision.. “It’s just fireworks, it’s not really a right.. Millward said many of his neighbors’ lawns are similarly dry and he worries that if something goes wrong with a firework, it could catch lawns or even homes on fire.. I think the only way to reduce fire risk is really to limit fireworks during years that are this exceptionally dry.”. Fireworks are legal in Utah from July 2-5, and July 22-25, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Legal hours are extended on July 4 and July 24 until midnight.. The state fire marshal has a list of fire restrictions by city, or you can check your local city website or local fire authority to see where fireworks are allowed in your area.

History of the National Weather Service, a timeline

1909: The Weather Bureau begins its program of free-rising balloon observations.. 1910: Weather Bureau begins issuing generalized weekly forecasts for agricultural planning; its River and Flood Division begins assessment of water available each season for irrigating the West.. He served as chief until his death in 1938.. 1935: A hurricane warning service is established.. Both the Army and Navy establish weather centers.. 1948: USAF Air Weather Service meteorologists issue first tornado warnings from Tinker Air Force Base.. 1952: The Weather Bureau organizes Severe Local Storms forecasting Unit in Washington, D.C., and begins issuing tornado forecasts.. Weather Bureau becomes the National Weather Service.. 1972: Rainfall from Hurricane Agnes floods the East Coast, killing 105 people.. 1976: Real-time operational forecasts and warnings using Doppler radar are evaluated by the Joint Doppler Operational Project, spawning a third Generation Weather Radar (WSR-88D).. Automated Surface Observing System, or ASOS, which replaced manual weather observations Next Generation Weather Radar, or NEXRAD, a network of advanced Doppler radars that contributed to increased lead times in predicting severe weather events, such as tornadoes, hail, and flash floods A new series of satellites that provided improved, all-weather data for longer-term forecasting Advanced computer systems that increased the computing power to support National Centers tenfold Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System, or AWIPS, which allowed communication among forecast offices and distribution of centrally collected data as well as offered field forecasters access to the data provided by the other new technologies. Red River of the North Flood causes 11 deaths and $3.5 billion in damages.. Hurricane Rita hits the Texas-Louisiana border coastal region in September, creating significant storm surge and wind damage along the coast, and some inland flooding.. Hurricane Ike makes landfall in Texas, as the largest (in size) Atlantic hurricane on record, causing considerable storm surge in coastal Texas and significant wind and flooding damage in 10 other states.. Over $7.0 billion in damages/costs; and at least 45 deaths were reported.

Recent research suggests it might not be as sustainable as we might think, but it’s complicated.

However, despite these glaring cons, scientists are concerned that organic farming has far lower yields as compared to conventional farming, and so requires more land to meet demand.. The total greenhouse gas impact from organic farming is higher than conventional farming.”. However, if England and Wales did not solely rely on organic farming, and both countries’ farmers used this alternative form of farming on a smaller scale, it could result in a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions.. While researchers and the general public remain divided on whether organic farming is more sustainable than conventional farming, Sonali McDermid, an assistant professor at the department of environmental studies at New York University, says that it is very hard to generalize across any farming systems or label conventional or organic farming as “good” or “bad”.. McDermid said that in some areas of the developing world, organic farming can actually boost yields over conventional farming because it doesn’t rely on so much water and chemical inputs.


1. Conversation UPDATE: William Happer
(Conversations That Matter)
2. Floods, drought and the consequences of extreme weather | DW Documentary
(DW Documentary)
3. What To Do During a Drought
(National Weather Service)
4. How Do Flood Control Structures Work?
(Practical Engineering)
6. Extreme heat: How to deal with the new normal | DW News
(DW News)

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