Curious Kids: why do we have a drought?

The heat makes the drought even worse, because it makes the plants more thirsty so they have to drink more.
Tim J Keegan/flickr, CC BY-SA

Albert Van Dijk, Australian National University

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Why do we have a drought? – Leon, age 6, Croydon, Sydney.

Hi Leon. That is a great question.

We have a drought whenever it stops raining for a long time. Rain is not always fun, but it is really important.

In some places it is pretty normal if it doesn’t rain for a long time, like in the desert. But even they still need a little bit of rain sometimes.

When it rains, some of the water goes into the ground. That keeps the plants in your backyard, on the farms and in nature happy, because they can drink water from the soil with their roots. Some water can trickle really deep into the ground, but we can still pump that groundwater from wells when we need it.

Another part of the rain goes into the rivers and that is really important too. When you open the tap at home, the water comes all the way from the river. The fish also need the river water, and the farmers need some of it to grow our food.

So as you can see, all of us need water: at home, on the farms and in nature. When we don’t have enough water left for the people, plants and animals to stay healthy, then we call that a drought.

There are lots of ways to save water.

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But why?

Maybe you want to know why it doesn’t rain? Because that is also a really good question.

Most rain comes from the sea. We need the wind to bring the clouds with the rain to us. But sometimes the wind can blow the wrong way for a long time, and then we don’t get that rain.

Then it can also get really hot, like in the summer holidays we just had. It also gets hotter because we are making our planet warmer. The heat makes the drought even worse, because it makes the plants more thirsty so they have to drink more.

We can’t make it rain. But we can try to make sure we have enough water to keep everyone and everything healthy. You are already helping if you don’t use more water from the tap than you need.

You can also talk to your parents about the planet getting warmer. With their help there is a lot we can do about that, too. For example, when they get to choose a government they can pick a person who really wants to fix it. And when you grow up, so can you!

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Albert Van Dijk, Professor, Water and Landscape Dynamics, Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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