When buying a new home, there are construction, size, aesthetics and price to consider. But another factor is becoming increasingly important: what are the local risks of climate change? If the place you are moving to is affected by drought, water availability must be a crucial consideration when purchasing a home.
Water is the basis of all life on earth, yet many of us take it for granted until it runs out. In areas hit by severe drought, water resources are insufficient to feed the population, especially when it comes to watering the lawn, washing the car, and taking long showers. Although water covers 70% of the earth’s surface, only 3% is suitable for drinking.
Growing risk of drought
Although many of us associate the Southwest with limited water resources, severe droughts can affect many other parts of the world. Many world cities have experienced severe droughts recently, including London (England), Cape Town (South Africa), Beijing (China), Santiago (Chile) and Sao Paolo (Brazil). Unfortunately, living in a drought-stricken area comes with numerous health risks, including scarcity of drinking water, poor water quality and air pollution.
“A city cannot live without water,” said Santiago Metropolitan Governor Claudio Orrego, as reported by The Independent. “And we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation in Santiago’s 491-year history, where we must adjust to the fact that there is not enough water for everyone who lives here.”
What causes droughts?
Drought is when unusually dry weather causes water scarcity and is the culmination of many factors. Climate change is causing more adverse weather conditions, such as hot, dry summers, in many areas. In addition, cutting down trees inhibits the soil’s ability to retain moisture, dries out the soil, and leads to desertification.
Humans have disrupted the surface water supply, making the effects of the drought more severe because there is less surface water to fall back on. Likewise, human activities such as watering crops have drained many aquifers and the construction of dams reduces the flow of water downstream. Also, a growing population in many cities has put more strain on limited resources.
Should I Buy a Home in a Drought Zone?
Before buying real estate, it is important to understand the climate risks in order to be able to make an informed decision. SafeHome.org has created a climate change index that ranks different countries according to climate risks. Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts were among the best states, while Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana were among the worst. It’s also important to know where your water would come from when buying a home and if there are any emergency resources.
Unlike areas that are prone to other types of natural disasters like floods, droughts don’t necessarily reduce property values. However, droughts can contribute to wildfires that can cause severe destruction.
Unfortunately, drought can strain water supplies, affecting daily life. Areas experiencing severe drought may declare a water shortage emergency. There may be ordinances to reduce water use and limit irrigation of gardens. There are often fines for those who break the rules. Because hydroelectric power plants power hydroelectric power plants, droughts can also cause energy shortages.
The North American Drought Monitor is an excellent source of information. It ranks drought intensity from unusually dry to exceptional drought. Currently, most of the western half of the United States is experiencing a moderate to severe drought, while the Midwest and Northeast are largely unaffected.
How can I prepare if I buy a house in a drought area?
There are many actions you can take to mitigate the impact of water stress on your home and conserve this precious resource. Areas with little water also often have higher water rates, so these tips can help save you money. And it’s wise to make these water-saving upgrades before you move in, because you can experience the benefits right away.
Look for water leaks
Unfortunately, leaks can waste thousands of gallons of water annually and cause mold and property damage. Check all plumbing fixtures for leaks and make sure the toilet is not running between flushes. Another approach is to check the water meter reading, stop using water for half an hour, and then check it again. If the reading goes up, you know there is a leak.
Install water-saving plumbing fixtures
This simple action also saves on energy costs for faucets that use hot water. Check the plumbing fixtures in your home to determine which ones are using more water than necessary. If your home has an older toilet, it can easily use several more gallons per flush than a new, water-efficient toilet. A water-saving shower head saves both water and energy from hot water preparation.
Create a drought-resistant landscape
Native plants are often more resilient to drought once established. If you live in an area with very limited water, consider lawn alternatives and avoid growing thirsty plants. In some drought-hit areas, residents are only allowed to water their gardens once a week.
Buying a new home is a big commitment and it is wise to consider environmental factors when making your decision. Living in an area where water is rationed will indeed impact daily living, but there are ways to mitigate this. Likewise, it can be difficult to predict droughts, but there are areas in the country that have been affected by prolonged severe drought and it is likely to continue.