Saving Water When Drought Weathers On
By G.A. Peck
It was an exceptionally hot and dry July across Connecticut. By mid-month, the state’s Interagency Drought Working Group declared “Stage 2” drought conditions, on a scale of 1-5.
“Under the state’s drought plan adopted in 2018, Stage 2 identifies an emerging drought event, potentially impacting water supplies, agriculture, or natural ecosystems,” the agency explained in a July 14, 2022 press release.
“Residents should be mindful of their water consumption and take sensible steps to reduce impacts on other water uses and on the environment,” Governor Ned Lamont asked for the public’s cooperation. “We must begin early steps now to mitigate the potential for harm should the drought become prolonged.”
Martin Heft, who chairs the Interagency Drought Workgroup and is the Office of Policy & Management’s undersecretary, added, “The combination of precipitation shortfalls and an extended period above normal temperatures have impacted the state’s water resources and increased demands upon them. Residents should not be alarmed, but begin taking steps now to reduce their water usage.”
To offer some context about a Stage 2 drought, Connecticut has reached this stage five times over the course of two decades (in 2002, 2007, 2010, 2016 and 2020).
“If conditions deteriorate further, the state could reach Stage 3, having reached that threshold in four counties in 2020,” the Workgroup warns.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has compiled some helpful tips for homeowners who’d like to conserve water and potentially save money. They’re simple, practical tips, including fixing any major or minor plumbing leaks.
Some of the EPA’s suggestions are behavioral in nature, like using a wash basin when washing dishes by hand, and turning faucets off in between use — for example, when you’re brushing your teeth or cleaning. And limit your laundry to full loads.
The EPA has some tips for saving water outside your home, too. If you’re clearing driveways or sidewalks of debris, sweep it away rather than using water to wash it away — egregiously wasteful under drought conditions.
Rain is critical to a lush lawn, healthy trees and thriving gardens. When rain becomes elusive, homeowners have to make some decisions about how best to keep their landscaping alive while being sparing with water.
If you feel you must mow your yard, consider setting your blade deck to a higher setting. Cut it too short, and it will be more likely to wither in the hot, dry climate.
Perhaps better yet, give your sprinklers and mowers a summer vacation, and let the lawn go. In moderate or severe drought conditions, grass will likely turn brown and go dormant, maybe even for most of the summer season. When more favorable conditions return or springtime renews the landscaping, rest assured, your grass will rebound. In the meantime, concentrate watering on vegetable, herbs and flower gardens, and consider manual watering, if possible.
A rain barrel can help. Rain barrels capture rainfall as it comes off the roof and down the downspout. They typically cost less than $150 retail, or you may be able to fashion your own for less. You might even equip your rain barrels with drip hoses to “automatically” irrigate flower and shrub gardens — no pump nor electricity required.
As we hope for a quenching rain, it’s a good time to think ahead about a worsening or future drought. Be mindful of state and local advisories related to drought stages and guideline for water usage. The University of Nevada’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources publishes “Tips for Keeping Your Landscape Plants Alive During a Drought,” and its author Heidi Kratsch recommends, “For future drought years, consider replacing unnecessary lawn areas with plants that can better handle heat and low-water conditions.”