News

Drought brings health, financial risks

By Steven Barker and Sandy Ornelas

Managing Editor and Assistant News Editor

The 2012-2013 record was the driest winter in the last 100 years throughout most of California, according to a report published by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.
On Jan. 17, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for California due to drought.  This year is California’s third consecutive year of dry weather.
The drought was caused due to lack of rain and snow in California.
In addition to the commercial strain that California’s current drought is predicted to have on Bakersfield’s agriculture industry, the state’s dry spell also projects to drain both its residents’ pocketbooks and immune systems.
Janice Gillespie, a professor of geology at California State University, Bakersfield, expects the scarcity of water will cause the prices of both food and water to spike, the latter in part to discourage recreational use of water.
“Water rates will go up substantially to discourage non-essential uses,” Gillespie said in an email. “Cars will be dirty, grass will be dead. Food prices will go way up.”
The cost of groceries similarly rose from January 2006 through December 2009, a three-year period of little rain. During that stretch, indexmundi.com, an online database that charts the prices of commodities, showed that the cost of wheat rose roughly 23-percent and beef and poultry prices climbed 11-and 17-percent respectively.
Dirk Baron, also a professor of geology at CSUB, predicts that Bakersfield’s aridity will lead to more dust storms like the one residents experienced on Thursday, Jan. 23.
“For now, for individuals here in Bakersfield, the impact is going to be limited mostly to more dust storms like the one we are experiencing right now, and maybe increased wildfires throughout the year,” Baron said in an email.
An increase in said storms also poses potential health risks, for the spores responsible for Valley Fever, a potentially-fatal fungal illness that replicates flu-like symptoms, are transmittable by wind.
In a March 2007 study conducted by Sam Behseta, Charles Zender and CSUB chair of the physics department, Jorge Talamantes, they concluded that the correlation between weather changes and Valley Fever outbreaks was weak. However, the authors note that some of the study’s observations limit the ability for its results to be representative of all of Kern County.
(Quotes from CSUB doctor about how dust storms increase possibility for valley fever, other illnesses).
On Wed, Jan. 22, House speaker John Boehner announced emergency drought legislature intending to bring more water to California. If the bill, passes it will incorporate three aspects: turn on the Delta pumps to capture rain, end restoration flows in the San Joaquin River in order to stop wasting water and the House and Senate will establish an emergency joint committee to create a long-term legislative solution.
State reservoirs are low and cities are beginning to take water-rationing measures.
Brown recently said that all citizens should cut back at least 20 percent of their water use in order to reserve water.
Kern-Green.org sent out a press release on outdoor water saving tips. Some of the tips include: wash your pet outside over an area that needs watering, water your lawn or garden in the morning when it’s cool and windy and check for leaky hoses and nozzles.
“As much as 50 percent of water people use outdoors is wasted from inefficient watering methods and systems,” according to Kerngreen.org.

Gillespie goes on to say if the drought continues, California is in trouble.
“The city is in the process of deepening many of the wells around the city with the expectation that the water levels in the aquifer will drop substantially,” Gillespie said. “Potential land subsidence in the near term and, if the drought persists for a long time, decreasing groundwater quality in the long term.”

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