A whopping 63.5% of the USA is now in a drought, the nation’s highest percentage since the 1950s, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor. “Unrelenting heat and lack of rain continued the downward spiral of drought conditions” in the Great Plains and Midwest this week, climate scientist Richard Heim of the National Climatic Data Center reported in the Drought Monitor (see map).
First of all, it’s important to define a drought. A drought is a period of drier-than-normal conditions that results in water-related problems. Groundwater, which is found in aquifers below the surface of the Earth, is one of the nation’s most important natural resources. Groundwater is the source of about 38 percent of the water that county and city water departments supply to households and businesses (public supply). It provides drinking water for more than 97 percent of the rural population who do not get their water delivered to them from a county/city water department or private water company.
Such droughts have two major impacts on small community water systems: water supply is reduced (surface waters and shallow groundwater) and water demand increases. The combination of these impacts can result in major stresses on the ability of water systems to meet demand.
Given the recent drought and lower than average rainfall in the US, many of us are looking at ways to save water. Conserving water not only benefits the environment, but also lessens the impact on your wallet. Although there are hundreds of water saving tips, below are some easy ones to get you started:
- Repair any leaks around your home. Leaking toilets, dripping faucets, and other leaks in pipes can waste over 10,000 gallons of water every year!
- Turn the faucet off while brushing your teeth or shaving. As soothing as the sound of running water may be, it is a complete waste and easy fix!
- Take short showers. It’s as simple as that.
- Scrape food waste into the garbage and NOT the garbage disposal. Not only does this save water, but you will make your city and wastewater operator very happy!
- Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator instead of letting the faucet run until its cool.
- Only wash full loads of laundry and only use the dishwasher when it’s fully loaded.
- Get water efficient appliances with the WaterSense label. Water efficient dishwashers, clothes washers, showerheads, toilets, etc. are 20 percent more water efficient than other traditional products on the market.
- Water lawns and plants during the early morning hours when temperatures and wind speed are the lowest. This reduces losses from evaporation. Also, check your water hose for leaks!
- When landscaping, choose native plants that are appropriate for your region. Native plants not only use less water, but are more resistant to pests and diseases.
- Use a rain barrel. Position the rain barrel under a rain gutter outside your house to water plants. This is an extremely easy, green, and attractive way to conserve water!
- Lastly, use a bucket with water to wash your car. Not only are you conserving water, but it’s a better workout than using a garden hose.
For hundreds of water saving tips click here. We must all do our part to conserve water. Do it because it’s the right thing to do!
This week, MAP is celebrating 35 years of assisting small, low-income rural communities with their water and wastewater issues. Joe Dvorak, MAP Field Manager, elaborates on this milestone:
In the early 80’s, much the same as today, small rural communities were experiencing problems with infrastructure. For that reason, the Office of Economic Opportunity felt that an independent third-party organization could play a valuable role to provide technical assistance and training in those communities. For the past 35 years I have seen countless numbers of systems, through the help of the Midwest Assistance Program, do much to improve the health and safety of their residents by improving their water and wastewater systems..
The need for this type of help continues as water and wastewater systems in rural America continue to deteriorate and many small community elected officials have nowhere to turn for help.
The service provided by MAP is every bit as important today as it was 35 years ago.
Joe Dvorak has been with MAP and RCAP since the beginning. “His vision, energy, and his commitment during these 35 years is greatly appreciated. That appreciation is not only from the MAP Board and his colleagues, but also from the hundreds of rural communities served across the nation. Good job, Joe D,” said Marcie McLaughlin, CEO.
Check out our timeline to see how we’ve grown over the past 35 years. (Click for full size image)