Preserving our liquid assets

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An interactive graphic from NPR shows the cycle of dry weather — in some places, devastating drought — that has been crisscrossing most of the United States since January. It also serves as a sobering reminder that water conservation needs to be a top priority as weather patterns continue to change.

According to the USDA, “1,297 counties across 29 states” have been declared disaster areas. The U.S. Drought Monitor currently reports that 61 percent of the continental United States is in a moderate to exceptional drought.

According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack … designated 39 additional counties in eight states as primary natural disaster areas due to damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat. During the 2012 crop year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated 1,297 counties across 29 states as disaster areas, making all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans. The additional counties designated today are in the states of Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming.”

While we’ve been seeing a fair share of rain locally, it doesn’t mean we’re outside the danger zone. A quick look at the interactive map shows that as of July 17, a good portion of Pennsylvania was considered “abnormally dry” with some parts falling into the “moderate drought” category.

What can you do? Use rain barrels  to catch runoff to water plants. Repair leaking faucets and toilets, and ensure your garden hose isn’t leaking, either. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth, and only do full loads in the dish and clothes washers. You can also skip — or at least cut down on — the number of times you water your lawn and wash your car.

For more helpful water conservation information, check out an earlier blog here, and remember: Saving water is not only good for the planet, it’s also good for your wallet.