13 Best Ways to Manage Drought

by Zaib Khain

Farmers and gardeners find it very difficult to manage drought. There are a number of good ways to handle it, however. For example, a rainwater harvesting system makes it easy to save money and save the planet. To save more water, both inside and outside your farmland, plan wisely and utilize the technology that is available. Water will be essential for any small business that you wish to build.

We have seen an increase in the consumption of water due to the demands of modern farming. As a result, there is a need to conserve water. The demand is expected to grow to 4 trillion cubic meters of freshwater per year.

In this blog, we will talk about various ways you can save water on farmland or even in your urban garden with different rainwater harvesting or planting systems. Any business start up needs to consider drought conditions and water requirements in your planning.

Drip Irrigation Systems which Manage Drought

drip irrigation system with plants between the plastic lines illustrating how to manage drought

Drip irrigation is the most common form of irrigation on farmland. The method involves the use of small emitters with holes that are spaced at a distance of 1-2 inches from each other. Water is pumped into the emitters and the water then drips slowly through the holes in the emitters onto the roots of a plant.

This system is very effective in conserving water, especially needed to manage drought. The system is able to deliver water to the crops in a controlled manner. This is a simple and effective technique for a water-restoring issue. Drip irrigation systems have proven to be very water-efficient in vineyards especially.

Fisheries and Irrigation

An irrigation pond which doubles as a fishery.

Ponds and fisheries on the land complement each other, and allow irrigation to happen as well as a possible crop from the fishery.

Flooded rice field.

In many areas of the world, people are using irrigation methods to flood their rice fields. Using the concept of double cropping, farmers have also learned that they can grow crawfish after the rice has been harvested. Two crops are produced in that irrigation water, and then the water is drained into another field to be reused.

crawfish on a platter

Irrigation can increase the productivity of fisheries, while fisheries can provide a valuable source of food and income in areas that are struggling to meet the needs of their population. This is a simple and effective technique for a water restoration issue.

Crops Selection to Save Water

checking a sensor to find amount of water needed for a field.

Crops have their own needs for water. A lot of water is used to make meat. Some plants need more water than others. In only a few hours, irrigated agriculture contributes 20 percent of the total cultivated land and 40 percent of the total food produced. Irrigated agriculture is more productive per unit of land than rainfed agriculture, which allows for more crop diversity.

Rice is easy to grow, despite being water intensive and generating little value per acre-foot of water. Farmers don’t have to rely on additional farm financing to grow such crops. Alfalfa is the crop that consumes the most water. New farmers are often surprised to learn which crops consume the most water.

Consider Costs of Rainwater Harvesting Systems

In drought, you should not plant crops that require a lot of water. To make your operations less water-intensive, you may have to invest in water-saving equipment. This may cause you to consider an operating loan for the purchase. If you have to borrow to make your operation more efficient, do the math. How long will it take you to pay off the loan with the profits of the water-saving crops? Will you have years of use from that equipment after it is paid off? Make a wise investment. Perhaps start slowly and do a little at a time, first to see how it works, as well as not spend so much money immediately.

Drought-Tolerant Crops 

picture of vegetables which are drought-tolerant.

It is always recommended that crops are grown appropriate to their regions. For instance, native crop species are native to arid areas and are naturally drought-tolerant. Moreover, drought-resistant plants work well in a range of soil types which have little soil moisture. The plants can thrive even in poor soil with relatively few nutrients. Making them part of your farm will pay dividends, both now and in the future.

There is a lot of debate surrounding the benefits of having drought-resistant plants on a farm. Proponents of the practice argue that these plants can help reduce the need for costly water inputs, and can even help revive degraded soils.

Effects of a Changing Climate

spindly crops on drought stricken land

Climate change means drought is becoming a growing threat in many parts of the world, especially for smallholder farmers who are less equipped to deal with climate risks. These farmers are more vulnerable to droughts than those who own large landholdings and have access to water sources, such as wells.

One way of coping with drought is to grow crops that are tolerant of water shortages. The following crops are known to be drought-tolerant: Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor, used even in the Sub-Saharan African area). This cereal grain has the ability to thrive even when there is little or no water available. Others are mustard greens, figs, grapes, okra, pole, and other types of beans.

Cover Crops

Cover crops are an efficient way to increase your crop yields at any time. However, in drought, these ground covers are especially effective in preserving water availability, stifling weed growth, and improving soil health at a critical time.

Cover crops can be planted winter or summer, depending upon your needs and goals. For example, in winter, they can gather nitrogen, while in summer, they can supply needed nutrition to your other crops or even break up soil compaction. Legumes are particularly valuable as a cover crop: another way to preserve your water supply.

Rotational Grazing

cattle grazing in a field

This is a process in which animals are moved between fields on a regular basis. Good management of pastures increases the amount of water absorbed in the fields and keeps the forage from being stressed. Water-saving benefits include increased soil organic matter and better pastures. Experts also claim that you can get 20% more forage when you rotate animals.

Rotational grazing works even when there is enough water, but it is an exceptional tool when we need to conserve water. By rotating animals on a regular basis, you are able to maintain soil fertility and prevent the loss of nutrients. This helps to improve the soil’s ability to store water and nutrients, and also helps to keep pests and diseases at a minimum.

Rainwater Harvesting Systems

rainwater harvesting tanks

The best way to save water is to install a rainwater harvesting system, following outdoor water conservation tips. However, some tips on how to save rainwater include installing harvesting rainwater systems and avoiding wasting the water supply. These systems help you to conserve water. Installing a rainwater harvesting system is not a very expensive project. It can save a lot of water as well as money. One simple method is to save water by rooftop rainwater harvesting.

Rainwater falling into a bucket

You can easily install rainwater harvesting systems on your roof or even in your yard. You can also buy a rainwater harvesting kit and install it yourself. Harvesting rainwater can be done by installing a roof water collection system. This system will collect rainwater and store rainwater it.

There are many types of containers used to hold rainwater, from simple buckets to more complicated gutter systems. However, the most common type is the rain barrel, which collects water from roofs.

By following outdoor water conservation tips, you can use the storage tanks’ water to flush the toilet, clean the house, water your plants, etc. One way to collect rainwater is to install a rainwater storage tank. This rainwater collection system will harvest rainwater and store it.

Laser Leveling

surveying land with a laser and having a front end loader move soil

Laser leveling can help save water on farmland. Traditional methods of leveling land are not easy to use, but a guided laser beam can be used to level the area within a certain degree of the desired slope. Accurate distribution of water is one of the benefits of laser land leveling.

The major benefits of laser leveling include accurate distribution of water, conservation of soil nutrients, precision farming, higher crop productivity, and fewer weed problems. Weed problems are typically reduced since the application of herbicides is not necessary.

Optimize Watering Times

You should know enough about your land and crops. Farmers can determine if and when to water with the help of low-cost and long battery life-connected sensors. There are a few factors to consider when watering your plants, including the weather and soil moisture levels to conserve your water supply.

You can use a low-cost, long battery life-connected sensor to help you determine when to water. A sensor kit is an excellent option for small farms, hobby farmers, or people who want to experiment with agriculture on a small scale.

Another tool you can use is a drone with a sensor. You can fly it over your land and see what needs water. You can also use it to spray essential chemicals on your crop.

Groundwater Recharge

artisan well with flowing water

Artificial groundwater recharge (AGR) is a method of adding water to an aquifer that is not naturally replenished. This is the practice of refilling underground resources. Farmers in areas with dwindling groundwater reserves are increasingly turning to AGR to help maintain their crop yields. It contributes to a steady supply of fresh, usable water runoff and protects natural ecosystems that industries like agriculture depend on.

To utilize this system, you need rain and snow in the area. It has to happen at a higher rate than water being pumped out of the surface water. Today, farmers are forced to pump more water than they can naturally replenish due to the increase in population.

Dry Farming

one little plant in the middle of dry soil

In the US, dry farmers rely on the soil to produce crops during the dry season. Special tilling practices are necessary. Dry farming has lower yields than irrigated farming. Wine grapes, wheat, olives, potatoes, and apple trees can be dry-grown in some of the US’s western states.

Dry farming is a type of agriculture that relies on the use of less water than irrigation farming. Although dry farming has lower yields than irrigation farming, it is a more sustainable method of agriculture because it conserves water.

One way to increase your yield is to use composted manure on your field each fall or spring. This will aid the soil in retaining moisture as well as nutrients.

Tailwater Reuse

sprinkler irrigation using tailwater

The excess water that runs off of the field at the low end of the field is called agricultural wastewater or irrigation tailwater. To achieve a modicum of irrigation efficiency and to ensure adequate penetration of water flow along the length of the furrow or border strip, you need a certain amount of tailwater. The tailwater often contains agricultural chemicals that are used for crop protection and yield maximization.

The reuse of tailwater from these farms is a win-win solution for the environment and the farmers. When compared to the benefits to the farmers, the costs are worth it. Use of tailwater is often legislated locally or federally, so you need to check the regulations before you dig a pit, install a pump, and plan to reuse your agricultural wastewater.


A public dam on a waterway

The dams, big and small, are used in countries all over the world for they are efficient tool to capture rainwater. Big commercial or public dams are a control system for rivers and lakes. Many times the irrigation water supply is drawn from these water sources.

Small dams, such as sand, canvas, or plastic, work on this same principle but on a much small basis. They are most effective when used with flood irrigation. They are placed within the ditch to control water flow.

Moving Forward

By using less water, you are also helping the planet’s crops to thrive. You are also helping your bottom line of your business. You can monitor your farm or garden soil moisture levels with a simple sensor. These water level probes are easy to install and measure soil moisture levels with high accuracy.

Choose your system to harvest rainwater carefully, then make good choices about crops to grow and fields to rotate. In drought periods, storing rainwater can extend your growing season. With a little effort, you can survive or even excel in difficult times.

About the Author

Zaib Khain is not only a freelance writer of agricultural topics, but he also is an SEO expert and creates website content.

Receive the latest news

Subscribe To Our Occasional Newsletter

Get notified about new blogs and products!