How to Survive Drought

Dog by pool GIF
Keep a guard dog near your water supply.

Surviving a drought is mostly about hanging onto the water you have, keeping that water clean, and reaching new sources of water. If you want to survive a loss of running water in the short term, follow the instructions in this guide. Your best plan for a long term loss of running water would be to move to a new location. Read on for more tips!

How to Detect Dehydration

If you have restricted access to water, keep an eye out for signs of dehydration in your family. Even if you have limited water, try to ensure that everyone maintains their usual level of hydration. Dehydration isn’t the most dangerous threat during a drought, but it is very easy to become dehydrated, and it’s no walk in the park. Wearing a shirt that hasn’t been washed in a few weeks is a much easier burden than ending up in the hospital because you didn’t drink enough water.

Here are the key symptoms of dehydration that you should look out for:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating and urinating less than usual
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Dry skin
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness

You’ve probably heard that if you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. It’s true! Drink water when you’re thirsty, and avoid diuretics like sugary drinks and caffeine.

The symptoms can be mild but if you don’t address it early, dehydration can become life-threatening. If your symptoms are accompanied by confusion, rapid heartbeat, shock, or fainting, get immediate medical help. 

Tips for When You Have Running Water

These practices will conserve water for your community if you already have limited access to water or if water restrictions are a possibility.

  1. Place a brick in the tank of your toilet. This displaces water to make your toilet flush with a little less water.
  2. Follow the “If it’s yellow let it mellow; if it’s brown flush it down” rule. Simply speaking, don’t flush the toilet every time you pee. 
  3. Take shorter showers. If you can make do with sponge baths or wet wipes, that’s even better. 
  4. Hand wash laundry, especially smaller items that are not very soiled. 
  5. While showering, plug your bathtub or collect the water in a bucket. This water can be reused for flushing or watering the yard. 
  6. Run washing machines and dishwashers only when they are full. If you’re debating dishwasher vs. handwashing dishes, keep in mind that dishwashers usually require less water per dish.
  7. If you have a fish tank and are changing its water, don’t dump it down the drain. Your garden can benefit greatly from that.
  8. Don’t water your plants between 9am and 4pm. Watering during cooler parts of the day will allow your plants to retain more water.
  9. Do not keep the tap running. Ever! If your water takes a long time to heat up, consider installing an energy efficient hot water recirculation loop to reduce water waste.
Cat drinking water
Keep those pets hydrated.

Tips for When You Don’t Have Running Water

When your local water supply has run dry and you are out of running water, things really get tough. These tips will help you maximize your water supply.

  1. Reuse cooking water. Boiled pasta? Don’t drain the remaining water. You can use it for soup. The water is potable and just has some additional pasta flavor and nutrients. Nothing to worry about.
  2. Use a glass of water to brush your teeth.
  3. Use a bucket for bathing.
  4. While shaving, use two cups. Fill both with water. Use one to lather up and the other to rinse your razor. 
  5. Save as much grey water as you can for watering your plants or flushing the toilet. Examples of grey water are the water you use to wash your produce while cooking, bath water, laundry water, pet bowls, etc. Soapy water is great for the toilet and clearer water is great for your plants (salt and harsh detergents might hurt plants).

Escaping Drought

If drought in your area becomes concerning enough that you need to move, consider yourself a climate refugee and consult the drought map to find a place with sufficient water. Millions of people in the world have been displaced by drought, and millions more are on the edge.

Climate change has altered ecosystems drastically, and water systems are in danger. Rising sea levels could contaminate fresh water sources with salt, and the desertification of warmer areas is continuing at an alarming rate. Check out the UN’s Goal 15 targets to learn more about global efforts to counteract desertification. Getting involved in global climate change mitigation efforts is a great way to help prevent drought. As water systems change, humanity will need to react to make sure those changes don’t result in catastrophe.

Hopefully, every location on earth will receive the ideal amount of rain this year, but in the highly likely event that some receive too little, we hope this has prepared you to make it through. Stay hydrated and stay safe out there!

Animal skull in desert
Don’t die from dysentery or cholera like this guy. Keep those emergency water sources clean.

About the Authors

It takes a village! We are researching, writing and fact checking as a family. Collaboration is the name of the game, whether we’re running from a zombie horde or finding the best way to turn a complex concept into a deliciously digestible set of bullet points.

Katherine Esperanza is a Los Angeles based writer. When she's not conjuring new queer slice-of-life short stories, she's busy watching the newest films, out at queer shows, supporting queer artists, or just checking out the queer community as a whole.

A former international non-profiteer, small business owner, and co-op'er, Katherine is delighted to help introduce more leftist politics into the disaster preparedness/prepper sphere, which is currently far too right-wing.