The Climate is changing, and global warming is responsible for droughts. Most people think that drought is a long period of time of dry weather, but it’s more than just that. Dry conditions could be developed by different reasons. Scientist defined drought into “four basic categories: meteorological, hydrological, agricultural, and socioeconomic.” – (www.livescience.com).
Meteorological drought depends on the amount of yearly precipitation – rain, hail, sleet, and snow. “A decrease in precipitation compared to the historical average for that area would qualify as a meteorological drought.” Hydrological drought is when water in streams, rivers, and reservoirs has low level. Agricultural drought is when not enough water for crops to grow. Socioeconomic drought is when demand for water exceeds its supply (too much irrigation or when hydroelectric power plant reduces energy production because low river flow; withdrawing water from long-held groundwater sources, expanding cropland, and urban development). Global climate change already has a noticeable effect on our environment. One of the climate change events is global warming. “Ninety seven percent of climate scientist agree that climate warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.” – (www.climate.nasa.gov).
Our planet’s average temperature increased about two degrees Fahrenheit during the 20th century. It was caused mainly by an increase in carbon dioxide and burning fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to Earth’s atmosphere. Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years. It was recorded five warmest years since 2010. Scientists are very confident that global temperatures will continue to rise due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities. They predict Earth’s temperature will rise 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit for the next century. Small changes in the temperature lead to big changes in the environment. Droughts in the Southwest, more intense and longer lasting heat waves, and less cold waves will be everywhere.
According to Pew Research Center survey, “Drought is the one people worry about most.” And it is understandable – we can see and feel its strong effect on our everyday life. Droughts have been drier and lasting longer. In 2012, 81% of the country was living in abnormally dry conditions. It cost $30 billion in damages. As the temperature increases, more moisture evaporates from land and lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. Warmer temperature also increases evaporation in plant soils, which affects plants life. Droughts have serious consequences for people’s life and they affect:
- Agriculture – in 2012 the U.S. department of agriculture declared a natural disaster over 2245 counties which is 71% of the United States.
- Transportation – low water levels on rivers that used for transport barges.
- Wildfires – drought and heat waves cause damaging and deadly wildfires.
- Energy – some energy plants require cooling water to maintain safe operations and hydroelectric power plants will produce less electricity or become unavailable.
“Across the United States, the risk of drought is expected to grow due to reduce precipitation and higher temperatures caused by climate change; In 2015, severe drought caused $2.7 billion in economic losses in California alone.” The cost of drought in the U.S. will continue to grow. We cannot prevent droughts, but can we make them less damaging? The communities of areas with projected increase in drought conditions should have plans to become more resilient. These communities should have plans for water conservation. All water users (local government, individuals, and businesses) have to be educated and participate in this plan.
New technologies and equipment can help reduce water use. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the WaterSense label to show that any product with this label is at least 20% more efficient without sacrificing performance.” For starters, to reduce water usage individuals can:
- Install faucets, toilets and showerheads with WaterSense label.
- Design to create landscapes that need less water.
- Use plants that need less water.
- Use efficient irrigation systems that reduce leakage and water demand.
- Harvest rainwater for outdoor uses.
However, for individuals, efficient water equipment has higher cost compare to traditional fixtures. They will begin see savings on the water bill only in a few years, but water companies raise price on water frequently. Of course, users can search for money – saving rebates in their area with watersence rebate finder (EPA) at www.epa.gov/watersence and estimate how much water, energy, and money can be saved with WaterSense labeled product. Local governments have to create education program for public including the importance and benefits of water conservation, and actions needed to achieve this goal.
“Water conservation is the most cost-effective strategy for reducing water consumption and becoming more resilient to potential climate impact that increase drought conditions.” – (www.c2es.org). Scientists agree that warmer temperatures will continue creating more dry and extreme conditions in some regions for next few decades. To prevent droughts from getting worse or more frequent, we have to stop climate change and preserve water supply.