When buying a new home, construction, size, aesthetics and price are all valid considerations. But there is another factor that is becoming increasingly important: What are the local risks of climate change? If the location you are moving to is prone to drought, water availability should be a key 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 scarce. In areas hit by severe drought, water resources are insufficient to meet the needs of the population, especially if it 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 may associate the Southwest with limited water resources, severe drought can impact many other parts of the globe. Many cities around the world have experienced severe drought recently, including London, England, Cape Town, South Africa, Beijing, China, Santiago, Chile and Sao Paolo, Brazil. Unfortunately, many risk for the health are associated with living in a drought-stricken area, including drinking water shortages, poor water quality and air pollution.

“A city cannot live without water”, Governor of the Santiago Metropolitan Region Claudio Orrego said, as reported by The Independent. “And we are in a situation unprecedented in Santiago’s 491-year history where we have to be prepared that there won’t be enough water for everyone who lives here.”

What causes droughts?

Drought it is when abnormally dry weather creates a water shortage and is the culmination of many factors. Climate change is creating more severe weather phenomena, such as hot, dry summers in many regions. In addition, cut down trees inhibits the soil’s ability to retain moisture, dries out the soil and creates desertification.

Humans have disrupted the surface water supply, which has worsened the effects of the drought because there is less surface water to fall back on. Similarly, human activity, such as crop irrigation, has drained many aquifers, and the construction of dams reduces water flow downstream. In addition, a growing population in many cities has put increased pressure on limited resources.

Should I buy a house in a drought area?

Before buying a property, it is essential to know the climatic risks in order to make an informed decision. SafeHome.org has created a climate change index which ranks different states according to climate risk. Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts ranked among the best states, while Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana were among the worst. It is also essential to know where your water would come from if you buy a house and if there are emergency resources.

Unlike areas prone to other types of natural disasters, such as floods, droughts do not necessarily decrease property values. However, droughts can contribute to forest fires, which can cause severe destruction.

Unfortunately, drought can put a strain on the water supply, which impacts daily life. Areas of severe drought may declare a water shortage emergency. There may be orders to reduce water use and limits on garden irrigation. Often there are fines for those who break the rules. Also, because water powers hydroelectric dams, droughts can lead to power shortages.

The North American Drought Watch is an excellent source of information. It assesses the intensity of drought from abnormally dry to exceptionally dry. Currently, most of the western half of the United States is experiencing moderate to severe drought, while the Midwest and Northeast are largely unaffected.

How can I prepare if I’m buying a house in a drought-prone area?

There are many steps you can take to lessen the effects of water shortages on your home and conserve this precious resource. Often areas with little water also have higher water rates, so these tips can help you save money. And it’s wise to make these water-saving upgrades before you move in, because you can start enjoying them right away.

Look for water leaks

Unfortunately, leaks can waste thousands of gallons of water each year and cause mold growth and property damage. Check all plumbing fixtures for leaks and make sure the toilet doesn’t leak between flushes. Another approach is to check the water meter reading, do not use water for half an hour, then recheck it. If the reading increases, you know there is a leak.

Install water-efficient plumbing fixtures

This simple action also saves on energy bills for appliances that use hot water. Check plumbing fixtures in your home to identify those that are using 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-efficient showerhead saves both water and water heating energy.

Create a drought-tolerant landscape

Often, native plants are more drought resistant once they are established. If you live in an area with very limited water, consider lawn alternatives and avoid growing thirsty plants. In some drought-stricken areas, residents are only allowed to water their gardens once a week.

Buying a new home is a big commitment, and it’s 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 this. Similarly, anticipating droughts can be difficult, but there are parts of the country that are experiencing prolonged severe drought, and that is likely to continue.