Tag Archives: drought

  • There are Entire California Communities Without Water

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    Without Water - Parched EarthEvery third day, Ruth Lezcano, who lives in a suburb of San Juan, Puerto Rico, fills a 30-gallon cooler and several five gallon buckets (like the “Homer” buckets from Home Depot) with water. She has a bucket for each activity that uses water, like washing dishes, bathing and flushing the toilet.

    She’s one of the estimated 270,000 residents of the San Juan metropolitan area who have tap water only one day in three.

    She resorts to daily sponge baths. She washes clothes on the days the water is on. And yes, she still pays her water bill.

    “It’s horrible to live under such conditions,” she said in Spanish.

    Without Water - Drought MonitorDrought can happen almost anywhere. About 28 percent of the U.S. is in drought, according to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor from the National Integrated Drought Information System.

    It’s difficult for people to think about preparing for drought because, frankly, drought is difficult to see. It can take a full season or more to identify a drought in progress. Also, drought is partly a human-made problem. If people use more water than is available, they can cause drought.

    In California, an estimated 80,000 to 160,000 people live in rural communities that have trouble providing safe drinking water. In Tulare County, Calif., 1,252 wells for homes are dry. They’ve been pumping out groundwater, water stored for thousands of years in underground aquifers, faster than it’s replaced. Shallow wells that households can afford dry out first as the aquifers get depleted by deeper industrial wells.

    Lezcano said she had to prepare herself emotionally and physically to live with water shortage from drought. Paradoxically, ready.gov said the best way to prepare for drought is to use less water beforehand.

    Here are some tips from ready.gov for saving water inside the home.

    Replace washers in dripping faucets and repair pipe leaks.

    “One drop per second wastes 2,700 gallons of water per year,” ready.gov said.

    Insulate water pipes. This will help keep them from breaking in winter and reduce heat loss, which means it’ll take less time to heat water from the tap.

    Install sink-based water heaters and low-flow appliances, toilets and shower heads. Some water districts will offer rebates to offset the cost. If you can’t afford low-flow appliances, you can artificially create them. Put a filled gallon jug (not a brick, which can decay) into the toilet’s tank, which will make the tank’s mechanical sensor think it’s fuller than it really is. When you shower, bring a bucket to catch excess water and don’t shower for long.

    Instead of rinsing dishes and using the disposal, scrape dishes and start a compost pile. When I got an installed dishwasher and disposal this year (hallelujah!), the plumber said the dishwasher actually works better if a little food is left on the dishes. Without food to latch on to, dish soap is too harsh and can etch dishes. He also said I shouldn’t use the disposal much because ground-up food, especially vegetable and fruit peels, can block pipes.

    “Potato peels are the worst,” he said.

    Outside, reduce the lawn and put in plants adapted to your climate. According to a study published in 2005, lawns cover an estimated 50,000 square miles of the country. That makes lawns the biggest crop in America. And you can’t even eat them.

    Make sure the sprinkler system and timer are in good repair. Don’t water the pavement. Also, don’t water too much. Lawns only need about a half inch of water per week and less in the autumn and winter. If water’s running down the gutter, you’re using too much. Consider using rainwater and gray water (water used first for showering and tooth brushing).

    If you’re prepared when drought hits, you can just keep your normal routine with only a few tweaks. Gillian Flaccus, a California-based writer, wrote in a column for the Associated Press that her family chooses to “let yellow mellow,” or not flush the toilet every time they used it. They also take showers instead of baths and limit those to five minutes. They don’t water their yard and rarely wash their car.

    “Our daughters' short lives have been shaped by water — or the lack of it — from potty-training to playtime to daily routines like brushing teeth,” Flaccus wrote.

    Without Water - Puerto Rico StormLast week, Tropical Storm Erika brought rain and some flooding to Puerto Rico. Lezcano said the storm missed the drought-stricken east side of the island. Even so, water managers are talking about turning the water on every other day, rather than one day in three.

    Lezcano, despite the hardship, thinks that’s a mistake.

    “People will waste water, like washing cars and [things like that],” she worried.

    --Thanks to Jimmy Rivera for translating.



    How's the drought treating you? How are you faring without water?

    Without water - Drought Page

    Posted In: Water Storage Tagged With: no water, Puerto Rico, California, drought

  • Beware These 5 Common Natural Disasters

    My family used to live on the edge of Tornado Alley. Since we saw tornado warnings every year, our 72-hour kits were extremely portable.

    Now we live in an area where tornadoes are extremely unlikely, yet earthquakes are a real possibility. Our home does not stand in an area with a major flood or fire risk that could require immediate evacuation. So our 72-hour kit is less portable and in stronger containers.

    If people know what natural disasters are more likely in their location, they can better prepare, argued Kevin Borden and Susan Cutter from the Department of Geography of the University of South Carolina in a 2008 study.

    Common Natural Resources - All National Weather Service

    “Improved understanding of how to react in a hazard event will contribute to reduced deaths from hazard events in high-mortality areas,” they wrote.

    Some types of natural disasters are prevalent everywhere.

    Here’s a list of five common natural disasters with the highest mortality rates, according to the University of South Carolina study.


    Heat or Drought

    Common Natural Disasters - Drought

    In 2014, heat killed an estimated 124 people, more than any other type of natural disaster, according to the National Weather Service.

    A stagnant atmosphere and poor air quality creates prime conditions for heat-related illness, according to ready.gov. Urban areas face higher risk of heat disasters because asphalt and concrete store more heat during the day and release it more slowly at night than unpaved land does.

    Drought can contaminate water supplies and create food shortages. It can also cause other natural disasters, like the 1988 Yellowstone wildfires.


    Summer Weather

    This category includes fog, thunderstorms, wind, and hail. These types of weather can hit throughout the year.




    Common Natural Disasters - FloodsFlooding killed an average of 71 people per year in the last 10 years, according to the National Weather Service. Almost half were due to people trying to cross flooded roads or overflowing streams or rivers, according to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. Vehicles float in only 18 inches of water. Six inches can make a person fall. Flash floods can require evacuation in minutes.



    Common Natural Disasters - Tornadoes In the last 10 years, tornadoes killed an average of 110 people per year.

    A category five tornado in May 2011 in Joplin, Mo., killed 160 people in 38 minutes. It was the costliest tornado in U.S. history, causing $2.8 billion in damages, according to 24/7 Wall Street. Another in Moore, Okla., in 2013, killed 49 people, more than 40 percent children, and caused nearly $2.5 billion in damage.


    The first four types of natural disaster – heat, storms, winter weather, and floods – are fairly frequent in every state. Tornadoes are less frequent in some states though they have touched down in every one. According to the University of South Carolina study, it’s not as important how often deaths from natural disasters occur as where.

    “Even if researchers could definitively assert the 'deadliest hazard,' a better issue to pose is where residents are more susceptible to fatalities from natural hazards within the United States,” they wrote.

    You can find out what common natural disasters your state is most prone to at Your State Perils,

    The Deep South and Mountain West have the highest mortality rates.

    Alabama led the nation in per capita deaths from all types of natural disasters during the last five years, according to 24/7 Wall Street. In 2014, 63 people there died from extreme temperatures, 54 people died from wind, 47 died from tornadoes, and 38 died from flooding. Each figure was the highest in the nation.

    The other eight states in 24/7 Wall Street’s story with high mortality rates from natural disasters include, in order from greatest to least, Missouri, Wyoming, Arkansas, Nevada, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Montana and Tennessee.

    While there are more dangers than just the aforementioned occurrences, these five common natural disasters are definitely ones to watch out for. Know the threats in the area in which you live and travel and plan accordingly.


    What are some common natural disasters in your area? Let us know how you prepare for them!

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios Tagged With: summer weather, heat, common natural disasters, drought, winter weather, Tornado, flood

  • Greywater Can Save Water

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    Let’s face it. Most of us can’t do much of anything about where we get our municipal water.

    However, we can do quite a bit about how much we use.

    By recycling some of the water used in their homes, called greywater, some homeowners in north-central California cut their water use by an average of 26 percent, according to a 2013 study by Greywater Action.

    Greywater Washing MachineGreywater is used water from bathroom sinks, tubs and washing machines. One writer described it as gently used. Greywater recycling systems collect at least some of this water for landscape irrigation or flushing the toilet.

    Collection is as simple as sticking a bucket in the shower or as complex as the NEXtreater, an installed system that washes greywater, sends it through two filters and a UV light and stores it so it comes out looking and smelling like tap water.

    The three most common types of greywater collections systems are laundry-to-landscape, branched drain, and pumped, according to Greywater Action.

    Laundry-to-landscape is the easiest and least expensive. In fact, plans and directions are free online. It simply takes water from the washing machine and, using the washing machine pump, sends it outside. Branched drain also takes water from sinks and showers and does the same thing. Both go out to a mulch basin, basically a hole in the ground filled with wood chips, and out to plants.

    A pump system takes greywater, stores it in a tank and pumps it to where you want it.

    Greywater pipes are separate from pipes that go to sewage.

    Greywater Action’s study found that laundry-to-landscape systems can cost $250 to $2,000, depending on installation and permit costs (in some states, no permit is necessary). Branched drain systems cost from $400 to $3,000, pumped systems cost $600 to $3,000 and high-tech systems like the NEXtreater that filter and clean water can cost $5,000 to $10,000.

    Homes can be retrofitted for greywater recycling, said Ralph Petroff, Executive chairman of Nexus eWater, the company that makes the NEXtreater.

    “We think that, nationally, maybe 50 percent of the homes could do a full-house gray-water retrofit relatively inexpensively, and the other 50 percent would be either challenging or you could do a partial retrofit,” he said in an interview with Water Deeply.

    Greywater can’t be used for everything, according to greywateraction.org.

    Greywater Drip IrrigationFor example, the water shouldn’t touch the edible parts of garden plants. Therefore, a drip irrigation system is necessary and greywater isn’t for root crops like carrots.

    Greywater should not pool or create runoff and, unless it’s a high tech system, should be used the day it’s produced so it doesn’t start to stink. It shouldn’t be touched or ingested. A system needs valves so greywater can’t backwash into regular water.

    Normal laundry detergent won’t work with greywater either. It contains salts and boron that accumulate in soil. A story in Mother Earth News said boron levels in detergent should be below 0.1 mg per liter and sodium below 40 mg per liter, which is about as much as in some tap water. Detergent shouldn’t contain bleach. Most bath products are OK because they’re used in such small amounts, according to Mother Earth News.

    Greywater codes differ between states. Look for them in the state’s plumbing codes in its building department or in its environmental health department, Laura Allen wrote in “The Water Wise Home: How to Conserve, Capture, and Reuse Water in Your Home and Landscape.”

    “Florida bans outdoor greywater use but allows it for flushing toilets. Georgia allows you to carry greywater in buckets to the plants, but you can’t get a permit to build a simple greywater irrigation system. Washington State’s code allows very small systems built without a permit (following performance guidelines), but all other systems have quite stringent requirements. Oregon requires an annual permit fee,” Allen wrote.

    Even though greywater can come with difficulty, using it could produce extraordinary water savings, according to waternow.com.

    “If just 10 percent of California’s 12 million+ households captured and reused greywater, the state could save 373,000 acre-feet annually. Just for comparison: The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir holds about 300,000 acre-feet. The proposed expansion of Shasta Reservoir would yield about 76,000 acre-feet annually,” according to its California Graywater Factsheet.


    How are you recycling your water?


    Posted In: Budgeting, Gardening, Water Storage Tagged With: sullage, graywater, greywater, water conservation, drought

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