According to the Drought Monitor by the National Integrated Drought Information System, over the last century, extreme precipitation variations in the Midwest have had a high impact on its residents’ daily lives.
While trends have ticked up towards wetter conditions and fewer droughts, the presence of several severe droughts has still greatly impacted the region. In Indiana, nearly 3.3 million residents lived in areas of drought in mid-summer 2023.
The National Drought Mitigation Center and other drought organizations don’t have a clear-cut definition of a drought, largely because the environmental phenomenon is complex and is subject to climatic differences across regions. For example, a week without rain may be considered a drought in a tropical climate, while weekly rainfall would be the exact opposite of a drought in a desert climate.
Most sources consider a drought to be a period of drier-than-normal conditions that last for days, months, or even years. While Indiana doesn’t routinely experience high rates of droughts throughout the year, when they do occur, they can be detrimental to local ecosystems, affecting people, agriculture, and even the economy.
To help keep Indiana homeowners informed on what a drought is and how to prepare for one, continue reading to learn more about all things droughts. Indiana American Water’s priority is the safety, health, and access to usable water of all Indiana residents.
The Basics of Droughts
Over time, we have developed proven techniques to track and prepare for natural hazards, such as tornados or hurricanes. But droughts are much harder to understand, and as a result, can be more destructive.
Droughts are typically considered to be a lack of precipitation over an extended period of time that results in a water shortage. Droughts can vary greatly in severity, area of effect, duration, amount of moisture, and time of year, making monitoring and preparation a greater challenge.
However, some drought monitoring tactics have proven effective. National weather and drought-specific organizations track common factors that they’ve determined may indicate drought in a specific region.
These factors include:
- Indicators – Indicators are natural variables for drought conditions that include precipitation, temperature, streamflow, ground and reservoir water levels, soil moisture, and snowpack.
- Indices – These are calculated levels of drought severity that rely on data compiled from indicators over time to determine the severity, location, timing, and duration of drought.
Both indicators and indices are important to help experts learn more about droughts, how to predict them, and maybe even how to prevent them over time.
Common Drought Impacts
When a drought strikes in Indiana, the impact can be felt from the smallest ecosystems up to the State’s water supply.
Some common impacts of severe drought could include:
- Limited Barge Transportation on Major Rivers
- Decrease in Municipal Water Supply
- Reduced Hydropower Productivity
- Decreased Agricultural Production
- Death of native plants and wildlife
The longer a drought lasts, the more severe its effects. An extended period of time without rainfall can also present more challenges and take longer to recover from than a shorter drought.
Types of Droughts
The Four main types of drought classifications are based on the main effects of a specific drought. The four drought types are:
These droughts have the greatest effect on plants and can result in overall reduced plant growth, a decrease in crop production, or even total crop failure.
When hydrological drought occurs due to decreased rainfall, it affects the water supply, flow, and levels of streams, reservoirs, lakes, and the groundwater table.
A meteorological drought is the most common type of drought, as its broad definition covers the majority of droughts that occur in Indiana.
This type includes region-specific droughts with an abnormal degree of dryness and an uncommon length of time without rainfall.
This type encompasses droughts that affect the water supply to a high enough degree that the demand for water or other economic goods can’t be met as a direct result of the lack of rainfall.
While each type of drought has its own unique impact, they all can harm the well-being and happiness of Indiana residents.
How to Survive a Drought in Indiana
While the idea of experiencing drought can be scary, there are some common tactics you can employ at home to help your family deal with droughts that may come to your corner of Indiana. The most important thing to do in a drought is to conserve water.
Even without a drought, summers in Indiana have natural periods of reduced rainfall. While you may have specific guidelines for conservation passed down by your local government during a drought, here are some helpful practices you can implement on your own in your daily activities.
Find & Fix Leaks
Indiana American Water offers a free leak detection kit so you can quickly find any leaks in your faucets, pipes, and fixtures, and get them repaired as soon as possible.
If you want to perform routine leak checks without a kit, check your water meter, and then do not use any water in your home for one hour. When the hour is up, check the meter again. If it’s changed even the slightest bit, this indicates you likely have a leak in your home that needs to be found and addressed.
Turn Off the Tap
From brushing your teeth and shaving to washing dishes, you can conserve water at your bathroom and kitchen sinks and shower, by turning off the tap when you’re not directly using any water. Simply turn the faucet back on when you need to drink or rinse and you can easily conserve large amounts of water every day.
In order to properly conserve water, you first have to know how much water you use in your Indiana home. Check out the Alliance for Water Efficiency’s handy online water calculator. This easy-to-use tool allows you to input your household’s water use information and generates additional water-saving tips specific to your home and family.
Contact Indiana American Water for More Information
Experiencing a drought doesn’t have to be detrimental to the health and safety of your family. Know the signs and have a plan in place to survive a period of extended dryness. For additional drought information specific to your part of Indiana, contact Indiana American Water or visit us online.
Also, check out our Wise Water Use page for detailed information on water conservation techniques.