How to Survive a Drought


There are many areas in the country that experience regular drought conditions. The period of drought can last for a few weeks or as long as several years. Those communities often employ drought preparations, but any area of the country could be hit with a severe lack of rain or other ground water resources devastating enough to have an impact on someone living a homesteading lifestyle.

No matter where you live, it makes sense to conserve the natural resources you have, and make sure you are always prepared for the worst conditions possible so you are never caught unaware and unprepared. You never want to have to rely on local government or FEMA resources to get you through a serious drought situation, even in on a short term basis.

Preparing to survive a drought is about more than just saving a few gallons of water, very few people have enough room to store enough water for just their immediate family members for more than a short period of water shortages. That doesn’t even cover having the water for continued food generation, both crop and livestock, or having enough water to maintain proper health hygiene.

Here are the best ways to prepare for a drought so that you and your loved ones can make it through a severe drought with minimal disruption in your normal routines.

Judging Homesteading Techniques Based on Emergency Preparedness Capabilities

Even during times of water surplus and no emergency issues, always make decisions on new preparedness techniques based on how well they will work if real disasters strike. Some livestock require large amounts of water daily. Some plants need heavier supplementary watering than others.

It doesn’t mean that you, as a survivalist, can’t utilize those types of survival resources, but be prepared to eliminate them when real water shortages begin, and have a plan to get by without those food or health items. If you can identify the water-hogs on the list of your survival items, you can see if losing them during long-term drought will have a severe impact that you need to have a backup for ahead of time.

If you have a food or personal resource that you feel is irreplaceable, you will have to find a way to provide enough water during the worst of times to sustain them as well as yourself and your family. Understanding what is truly important and what is just window dressing helps. While you may love your beautiful lawn and decorative flowers, and they make your homestead look attractive and inviting, when push comes to shove, those are not important resources to use water for.

However, your vegetable garden, herbs and edible flowers should receive as much water as you can provide them with, since they are important food resources for your family.

Deciding what is really important for daily living is also brought into sharper focus when drought conditions are present. Dishwashers and clothes washing machines are wonderful modern inventions, but both are massive water hogs that waste a lot of water. Hand washing will provide the necessary cleaning without as much water use.

Full bath-tubs are not necessary for a good bath. Sitting in just a few inches of water will provide plenty of water for washing. Showers are one of the worst ways to get clean when trying to conserve water, but if you absolutely must shower, cut down on the number of showers and limit the time to a few minutes. Turn off the water while soaping up, or shampooing hair to cut down on the amount of water used as well.

Determining Basic Water Needs

Getting through a drought with as little stress as possible while homesteading means you’re planning well in advance of any real emergency. Getting the tools together and implementing plans are much more difficult once trouble strikes.

One reason it is harder to get what you need to survive a drought during a water shortage is by that time everyone is looking for the same things you are looking for. Prices sky-rocket and supplies dwindle or disappear. Doing it ahead of time allows you to find the materials you need at prices that aren’t inflated by a panic stricken community.

Make a list of all items that require regular supplemental watering. Supplemental watering includes most houseplants not exposed to outside waterfall, garden plants that require regular watering in addition to any natural waterfall, pools, ponds, lakes, livestock that need daily water unless they have access to a plentiful natural resource that isn’t quick to dry out.

Supplemental water requirements will also include the amount you need to cook reasonably, wash dishes, brush teeth, take showers and keep the home and personal items clean.

Re-Thinking Water Use

During a water shortage of any kind, and especially during a drought, you may have to cut back on some of the supplemental watering that you commonly feel are necessary. You will have to revise your ideas on how often you need to shower, how often you need to wash clothing. Any time you can reduce the amount of water used you increase your ability to get through a long water shortage.

Stockpiling Water Safely

Water should be stored in a cool, dry place in the home for drinking. A basement, closet or pantry is perfect. Make sure all containers are sanitized by washing them with a bleach solution. Rinse thoroughly, but add a couple of drops of bleach to each bottle or tank as it is filled. The typical amount should be 16 drops of regular household bleach (no fragrances or other additives) to one gallon of water. Small amounts of bleach in the water will not be detectible when drinking, and won’t do any harm to your bodies, but it will control algae growth and prevent bacteria buildup in stored water that is kept for a long period of time.

With the exception of commercial bottled water that has a longer shelf life, any individually prepared water kept in storage should be replaced, or better yet, used and replaced, every six months whenever possible.

Capturing Natural Water

Even during a severe drought, one of the best ways to ensure long-term survival is developing catch systems to capture natural rainwater or watershed. Even when rains are not plentiful, any little amount caught during the year will improve your supplies and mean less use of stored water. Some means of capturing rainwater include:

  • Barrels connected to downspouts from roofing systems
  • Open-topped roof-top troughs
  • In-ground collection tanks connected to downspouts and tank “roof” collection
  • Garden tanks
  • Reuse “gray” water

Many countries regularly subjected to limited rainfall such as India incorporate these types of collection systems in all community and residential areas. Rooftop runoff is a great resource for family water collection. Several drums can be connected with PVC piping to hold and store the water for long periods of time.

Water butts/barrels

Even basic barrels can be used, so long as they are covered to stop evaporation.

If any buildings on your property have flat, or shallow pitched roofs, an open-topped container can also be placed on the roof to collect water as it falls along with what goes down the gutter system into the barrels. Make sure the roof can support extreme weight, however. Water weights about eight pounds per gallon, making even a modest rooftop container holding a hundred gallons weigh a massive eight hundred pounds.

Gallon jugs cut in half and placed with the “bowl” of the bottle up and the open nozzle of the bottle in the ground situated throughout a garden can help supplement plant life. Larger rain barrels can also be used throughout the garden or in conjunction with a PVC irrigation system attached to water plants.

The best livestock watering system is a natural lake or pond. If there is any room at all for incorporating a man-made pond where there isn’t a natural one, it will help keep your animals healthier as long as possible during a drought. Extra rain barrels placed around a barn with a gutter system will also supplement animal water without taking away from household water resources.

One of the most important ways to conserve water is to make sure none is wasted. Reuse gray water in areas that do not require drinking quality water. Gardens are a great place to use water after doing dishes, taking baths or cleaning the house.

Additional Drought Survival Tips

Cut back on salt in the diet. Eating salt makes the body crave more liquids.

When supplies run out in a severe drought situation, and you have to scavenge local rivers, streams, ponds or other natural water sources you can find, always boil the water well (rolling boil for at least one minute) before using it to prepare food or drink.

Planning for an emergency should be the law of the day for any survival preparedness homesteader. The better equipped you are in advance to deal with serious issues; the more likely you will be to get through it in a healthy and happy way.


About Author

Tami lives in rural Illinois with her husband of 32 years where they raised their two children in the homestead lifestyle and now share their love of living off the land with their grandchildren as well.

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