Homebuyer Climate Change Concerns: Drought
When purchasing a new home, construction, size, aesthetics, and price are all worthy considerations. But there’s another factor that’s becoming increasingly important: What are the local risks from climate change? If the location where you’re moving is drought-prone, the availability of water needs to be a critical consideration when buying a home.
Water is the foundation of all life on Earth, yet many of us take it for granted until it is in short supply. In areas stricken by severe drought, there are insufficient water resources to support the population, especially if that involves watering the lawn, washing the car, and taking long showers. Despite water covering 70% of the earth’s surface, only 3% is suitable as drinking water.
Growing Risk of Drought
Although many of us might associate the Southwest with limited water resources, severe drought can impact many other parts of the globe. Many world cities have experienced severe drought recently, including London, England, Cape Town, South Africa, Beijing, China, Santiago, Chile, and Sao Paolo, Brazil. Sadly, numerous health risks are associated with living in a drought-stricken area, including shortages of drinking water, low water quality, and air pollution.
“A city can’t live without water,” Governor of the Santiago Metropolitan Region Claudio Orrego said, as reported by The Independent. “And we’re in an unprecedented situation in Santiago’s 491-year history where we have to prepare for there to not be enough water for everyone who lives here.”
What Is Causing Droughts?
Drought is when abnormally dry weather creates a water shortage and is the culmination of many factors. Climate change is creating more severe weather, such as hot, dry summers in many areas. In addition, cutting down trees inhibits the soil’s ability to retain moisture, drying out the ground and creating desertification.
Humans have disrupted surface water supplies, making the impacts of drought more severe because there is less surface water to fall back on. Likewise, human activity, such as crop irrigation, has drained many aquifers and building dams reduces water flow 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 purchasing real estate, it’s essential to know the climate risks to make an informed decision. SafeHome.org created a climate change index that ranks various states by climate risk. Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts ranked among the best states, while Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana were among the worst. It’s also essential to know where your water would come from if you purchase a home and if there are emergency resources.
Unlike areas prone to other types of natural disasters, like flooding, droughts don’t necessarily decrease property values. However, droughts can contribute to wildfires, which can cause severe destruction.
Unfortunately, drought can strain water supplies, which impacts daily life. Areas in severe drought may declare a water shortage emergency. There may be orders to cut back on water use and limits on irrigating gardens. Often, there are fines for those that break the rules. Also, because water powers hydroelectric dams, droughts can cause energy shortages.
The North American Drought Monitor is an excellent source of information. It rates drought intensity from abnormally dry to exceptional droughts. Currently, most of the western half of the United States is in moderate to severe drought, while the Midwest and Northeast are largely unaffected.
How Can I Prepare if I Buy a Home in a Drought-Prone Area?
There are many actions you can take to mitigate the impacts of water shortages on your household and conserve this precious resource. Often, areas with little water also have higher water rates, so these tips can help save money. And it’s wise to make these water-saving upgrades before moving in because you can start experiencing the benefits right away.
Look for Water Leaks
Unfortunately, leaks can waste thousands of gallons of water annually and cause mold growth and property damage. Check all plumbing fixtures for leaks and ensure the toilet doesn’t run between flushes. Another approach is to check the water meter reading, not use any water for half an hour, and then recheck it. If the reading goes up, you know there is a leak.
Install Water-Saving Plumbing Fixtures
This simple action also saves on energy bills for fixtures that use hot water. Review the plumbing fixtures in your home to identify which ones use more water than necessary. If your home has an older toilet, it can easily use several gallons more per flush than a new, water-efficient toilet. A water-saving showerhead saves both water and energy from water heating.
Create a Drought-Resistant Landscape
Often, native plants are more resistant to droughts once they are established. If you live in an area with very limited water, consider lawn alternatives and avoid growing thirsty plants. In some areas stricken by drought, residents are only allowed to water their gardens once a week.
Purchasing a new home is a big commitment, and it is wise to consider environmental factors when making your decision. Indeed, living in an area that rations water will impact daily life, but there are ways to mitigate that. Likewise, anticipating droughts can be difficult, but there are areas of the country experiencing prolonged severe drought, and that’s likely to continue.