A Guide to Drought Mitigation Strategies

Drought Mitigation Strategies: Lessening Droughts’ Impacts

Drought can occur almost anywhere. Drought is less rainfall than is normal in an area over a period of several months or years.

Places which have low normal rainfall have more experience in dealing with conditions of little water. Much of the way that water is used, dealt with, recycled and conserved in such areas can be models for use in other areas, in both normal and drought times. Usage of some of these ideas in good times can help to lessen the impact once a drought has begun.

What are the ways to mitigate a drought? They are myriad. We will look at a few of the most common.

These first methods are ways that can store or move or produce relatively large amounts of water, and can sometimes encourage development of populations that would not otherwise be supported in some areas even during periods of normal rainfall.

1. Storage of water in reservoirs by the building of dams to block water flow.

2. Tapping into groundwater through digging of wells.

3. Construction of water pipelines or canals to bring in water from areas where there is a surplus of water. This has been a done in much of the the American West, most notably Arizona and California.

4. Desalinization of sea water. Advances in technology over the years have made it easier to separate fresh water from the dissolved salts and minerals in sea water.

Other ways to mitigate droughts include some common agricultural practices that are in use for both soil and water conservation. These include:

1. Harvesting of rainwater. This means the collection of rainwater from roofs and other similar rain-catching areas, and storing it for future use.

2. Gray water (recycled water) usage. This is the usage of wastewater that has been treated and purified for use. In some cases it is treated and purified to the extent it could be reused for drinking, cooking or other uses. In most cases is used for lawn and plant watering, as is done in Grand Canyon National Park in Grand Canyon Village, the main tourist area of the park.

3. Specific land use programs. Examples of this are:

(a) crop rotation, which helps lessen erosion and encourages usage of more drought-resistant plants in dry years;

(b) windbreaks/shelterbelts, which reduce the speed of the wind moving across field, thereby reducing evaporation of water from the soil;

(c) contour planting, trenches and stone walls, which reduce erosion and also trap water, which then replenishes groundwater;

(d) percolation ponds, which are small depressions dug into the ground or impoundments in gullies or ravines that trap water in small reservoirs for livestock and also replenish groundwater;

(e) saucer basins (built around trees in an orchard, as an example) to catch water for crops being grown;

(e) and checkdams, made of things such as brush-wood, loose stones or woven wire, and placed in gullies to reduce water flow and erosion, and which also replenishes groundwater.

4. Restrictions on water usage during drought conditions to conserve water. This includes such things as reducing or eliminating lawn watering and car washing, and encouraging the efficient use of water in the home (as with efficient shower heads and faucets).

Wise use of water in good times will help to ease times of drought, as wise use of money resources in good times helps to ease economic hard times.