Many communities across America don’t spend time imagining a day without water and what effect that would have. However, long-term drought has made this frightening scenario far too close to reality. As a result, many residents are well aware of the consequences.
When municipal water supplies decrease, community leaders understand that businesses suffer, particularly those that rely on water as part of their operational plan. When businesses suffer because of community-driven issues, they often move and take jobs with them. Communities rely on businesses to support the local economy, so businesses leaving town can have a significant impact.
On a personal level, the stakes can be just as high. Some residents worry about being forced to close a small business, such as a car wash, that they’ve spent years building. Others dread watching a cherished plant, like their mother’s favorite rose bush, wither and die. Still others weigh the pros and cons of staying near family and old friends versus moving away for better opportunities.
For social and economic stability, city leaders must find new ways to provide a consistent and adequate water supply, even in times of drought. The best solution is to plan for drought long before a water shortage emergency.
An Ounce of Prevention
Fortunately, drought doesn’t happen overnight. Water shortages develop over months or years, with plenty of indicators that trouble is brewing. By proactively monitoring these signs, you can make sure you are ready when drought begins affecting your community.
All communities in drought-prone areas should measure rainfall, groundwater subsidence, stream flows and reservoir levels periodically. Within such water supply planning initiatives, it’s also important to identify drought triggers specific to your community.
You’ll want to put a detailed water plan in place. This may include defining water conservation measures and other drought mitigation actions, as well as determining exactly when they should kick in. For example, you might decide that it’s time to start the formal design process for drought mitigation solutions when the local reservoir falls below 50 percent capacity.
Revisit your key data points and your water plan regularly to make adjustments as climatic conditions and municipal needs change.
No Time Like the Present
Though drought can devastate a community, many leaders delay drought contingency planning. This is a risky strategy. Alternative water sources are available in virtually all communities, but building the necessary infrastructure to acquire, treat and deliver these sources takes time.
It is possible to wait too long and discover that few, if any, solutions can be implemented quickly enough. Additionally, communities that are desperate for water have little leverage when it comes to negotiating fair rates, whether for building new treatment facilities or purchasing water.
It’s far better to assess your needs, water resources and weather trends now in order to implement effective drought mitigation plans that will support your community well into the future.
In areas that have been hard-hit by heat and drought, water shortages are unlikely to improve on their own. Take a deeper dive into the diverse alternatives that will keep communities afloat.