The Heat is On: Maintaining a Conservation Mindset

Here in Texas, we’re no strangers to drought. But we’re also not alone, many states west of the 100th meridian -such as California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah – are also very familiar with the variability of rainfall and the cloud of doubt it casts over local water availability. Though the western half of the country is most vulnerable, droughts have also been known to occur in all parts of the US with varying levels of severity and duration. Indeed, for many communities nationwide it's not a matter of whether there will be another drought but when. Because of this reality, the question for many water utilities becomes: how can the future supply of water be adequately planned for with such variability?

When droughts occur, conservation measures often represent the first line of defense for protecting critical supplies. While these efforts can be effective, they are also reactionary. For this reason they can be a challenge to implement effectively and influence water use behavior only temporarily. Instead, to adequately plan for droughts before they occur, proactive and on-going water conservation efforts should be in place to secure long-term reductions in demand. The key to doing so requires transforming these temporary behavioral changes into a permanent attitude and set of habits. It is a conservation mindset that needs to be maintained and supported long after a drought has ended and long before the next one arrives.

The last major drought to hit the US took place in California - punctuated by the years 2013 through 2016. Since it ended 2017, much of the country was safely saturated, with drought spells in the US relatively isolated and less severe. Unfortunately, these periods can be fleeting and as the US Drought Monitor maps below show, the circumstances can quickly change: