My home state of Alabama is currently experiencing the worst drought in memory, and it’s been a strange, yet eye-opening experience. Our rivers and lakes are drying up, and forests are going up in flames faster than we can put out the fires.
“Emergency-level” has been declared in all 67 counties in Alabama, and in my city of Birmingham, a surcharge of 400% is being implemented for anyone who uses more than 9,000 gallons of water per month. According to the Alabama Climate Report, the last time that October and September were this dry was in 1904, and during the month of October, 110 daily high records were set. Little River Falls has exactly zero water for the first time on record, and streams are now just rocky trails littered with dead fish. Farmers are suffering immensely at the hands of the drought. Their livelihood is in danger, because they have no pasture for livestock, nor water for crops.
It’s put a lot of things into perspective for me, mainly, my changing climate and my water consumption. I’m the type of person who turns on the water when I pee so that nobody can hear me. That’s me. Experiencing the drought and the effect it’s having on my city changed things for me. I’ve had to shift priorities, and in some cases, I won’t go back. For starters, I no longer give a sh*t about the following:
Watering my lawn
Even though my yard is fairly small, and I could legally get away with watering it weekly, it’s been crunchy for weeks, and I really couldn’t care less. I figure I’ve saved a little under 500 of my allowed 9,000 gallons of water this month by letting my grass get crunchy, and I’m totally fine making that sacrifice. I’ve also noticed some solidarity with my neighbors. We’ve all got crunchy stuff in our yards that resemble hay more than grass, and nobody seems to be concerned. Instead of grass, I’ve been researching water-friendly ground cover. Who knows, maybe I’ll ditch the grass for good.
Fall, to me, is camping season. There is absolutely no better way to spend a fall weekend than sleeping in a tent in the woods, and waking up to campfire coffee. Even the smell of a campfire is magic, and catching a whiff while unpacking my dirty camping clothes is usually a spiritual experience.
But watching an entire forest go up in flames because of a cigarette butt has changed things for me. Since the beginning of October, 22,352 acres in Alabama have burned due to wildfires. Cheaha State Park, The Great Smoky Mountains, and the Appalachian Mountains in the Carolinas are all suffering from fires. My small hometown of Hayden has experienced fires as long as four interstate exits for days. My firefighter friends have been working non-stop for three straight weeks all over the state. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good campfire, but it’s not on my list of things that will be “giving me life” this year. Rain is on that list, though.
How often does one really need to wash their hair? Asking for a friend. Dry shampoo has become a girl’s best companion in recent months. In reality, though, humans don’t need to take daily showers. It’s not good for your skin or hair because water makes us so dry. Also, skipping showers conserves water, so it’s a win-win! Cutting my daily showers down to three times per week has saved roughly 200 gallons of water weekly or 800 gallons monthly. Not too shabby if I do say so myself.
In a brainstorming session with some girlfriends, one openly admitted to wearing articles of clothing multiple times before washing them, and will only use the washer when there’s a full load. Another will only shower with her husband in order to save water on two showers. I think I’m most impressed with my friend who uses biodegradable soap to wash her hands, then reuses the water for her plants.
Having a clean car
Mine is literally covered in pollen and tree sap. The sap is causing leaves to stick to it. It looks weird, but that’s not enough for me to justify using more than 100 gallons of water each week to get her squeaky clean. It’s thrilling to pass a fellow gross car during the commute — I feel like we’re partners in crime. Surprisingly, though, car wash business is on the upswing. It saves a huge amount of water compared to home washings, and some places in town recycle the water.
Flushing the toilet
If it’s yellow, it’s mellow. When it’s not mellow, a friend of mine told me about the “bucket flush.” Basically, while your shower is on and you’re waiting for the water to warm up, keep a bucket in the shower and let that fill up with the (evil) freezing cold water. When needed, you pour this bucket of water into the toilet bowl quickly, and that will trigger a flush without using tank water. Pro tip: this shower water has also kept my rosemary alive, so I’m not mad about it.