While droughts tend to be less spectacular than other types of natural disasters, they actually affect more people in North America than any other type of natural hazard. In addition, droughts are more costly to the United States than any other type of disaster, with losses of $6 to $8 billion every year.

No region in North America is immune to droughts, and at least one region in the United States experiences drought in any given year.

  • Be sure to observe any local government water restrictions.
  • Be prepared for a drought ahead of time. Install low-flush toilets, use displacement devices in the toilet tanks and repair dripping faucets.
  • Farmers should contact their local Farm Service Agency for disaster assistance information.

Conserve Water in the Home

  • There are dozens of ways to conserve water. FEMA recommends the following five easy methods:
  • Install water-saving showerheads.
  • Install displacement devices in toilets.
    • Toilet dams: Available from most utilities or plumbing supply stores, they typically save 2 gallons of water per flush.
    • Displacement bags: Available from most utilities, these bags typically saves 1 gallon per flush.
    • Water-filled plastic bottle: Weighted down with a few stones, they can be placed in the tank so as not to interfere with the flushing mechanism and save 1 gallon of water per flush. (Do not use bricks as displacement devices. Pieces can break off and permanently damage plumbing systems.)
  • Install faucet aerators.
  • Change water use patterns.
    • Use washing machines and dishwashers only when fully loaded.
    • Use a pan when washing vegetables and dishes instead of letting water run continuously.
    • Don’t allow the water to run continuously when brushing teeth, washing hands, shaving or taking a shower.
  • Find and Fix Water Leaks. Make sure your home is leak free by taking a reading of your water meter when no water is being used in your home. Wait 30 minutes and then take a second reading. If the meter reading changed, you have a leak. Add food coloring in your toilet tank to check for toilet leaks. If you have a leak, the color will appear in the bowl within 30 minutes.

Other Ways To Conserve Water In Your Home

  • Never pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it, such as watering indoor plants or your garden.
  • Turn faucets off completely to avoid drips and slow leaks.
  • Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. One drop per second wastes 2,700 gallons of water per year.
  • Take short showers, not baths. Limit showers to 5 minutes or less.
  • Turn the valves under sinks to reduce the rate of water flow.
  • As you wait for shower water to heat up, collect the water in a bucket for watering plants.
  • Use tight fitting lids on pans when cooking to keep water from boiling away.
  • Cook food in as little water as possible.
  • Keep a covered bottle of water in the refrigerator for drinking so you won’t have to let the water run to get cold.
  • Insulate hot water lines.

Private Water Supplies

  • It is important for people who obtain their water supply from shallow water table wells to allow time for the well to recharge between periods of significant use.
  • Spread major water use activities throughout the week. For example, wash a load of laundry every day instead of a week's worth on Saturday.

Conserve Water Outside the Home

  • When water is extremely scarce, do not water your lawn or plantings or wash your car.
  • Plant native vegetation.
  • Group garden plants so they need less water or can be watered more efficiently.
  • Use mulch around shrubs and plantings.
  • Only water new, not established gardens and landscaping.
  • Water grass only when needed, soaking slowly and deeply, long enough for the water to reach the roots. Only water during cool hours. Morning is best.
  • Use trickle or drip irrigation methods.
  • Install automatic shut-off nozzles on all exterior hoses.
  • Use a broom, not a hose, to clean driveways, steps and sidewalks.
  • When washing a car, use a mild non-toxic detergent, parking the car on the grass so the water is also used to water your lawn.
  • Don't refill outdoor swimming pools. Install a pool cover to minimize evaporation losses when not in use.

Stay Informed

  • Monitor commercial radio, television and the Internet for drought conditions.