Rains improve drought conditions, but Kern County remains "extreme"

KERO 23 Bakersfield
KERO 23 Bakersfield

With all this rain comes changes to California's drought conditions. 23ABC takes a deeper dive into the updated numbers and what this means for Kern County.

According to the California Drought Monitor , large portions of the state were in "exceptional" and "extreme" drought not too long ago. But recent rains have moved a number of counties from exceptional and into extreme drought. This includes most of Kern County. A section of Southeast Kern has also moved into "severe" drought.

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So what are the different levels of drought?

Abnormally Dry

  • Soil is dry; irrigation delivery begins early
  • Dryland crop germination is stunted
  • Active fire season begins
  • Winter resort visitation is low; snowpack is minimal

Moderate Drought

  • Dryland pasture growth is stunted; producers give supplemental feed to cattle
  • Landscaping and gardens need irrigation earlier; wildlife patterns begin to change
  • Stock ponds and creeks are lower than usual

Severe Drought

  • Grazing land is inadequate
  • Producers increase water efficiency methods and drought-resistant crops
  • Fire season is longer, with high burn intensity, dry fuels, and large fire spatial extent; more fire crews are on staff
  • Wine country tourism increases; lake- and river-based tourism declines; boat ramps close
  • Trees are stressed; plants increase reproductive mechanisms; wildlife diseases increase
  • Water temperature increases; programs to divert water to protect fish begin
  • River flows decrease; reservoir levels are low and banks are exposed

Extreme Drought

  • Livestock need expensive supplemental feed, cattle and horses are sold; little pasture remains, producers find it difficult to maintain organic meat requirements
  • Fruit trees bud early; producers begin irrigating in the winter
  • Federal water is not adequate to meet irrigation contracts; extracting supplemental groundwater is expensive
  • Dairy operations close
  • Fire season lasts year-round; fires occur in typically wet parts of state; burn bans are implemented
  • Ski and rafting business is low, mountain communities suffer
  • Orchard removal and well drilling company business increase; panning for gold increases
  • Low river levels impede fish migration and cause lower survival rates
  • Wildlife encroach on developed areas; little native food and water is available for bears, which hibernate less
  • Water sanitation is a concern, reservoir levels drop significantly, surface water is nearly dry, flows are very low; water theft occurs
  • Wells and aquifer levels decrease; homeowners drill new wells
  • Water conservation rebate programs increase; water use restrictions are implemented; water transfers increase
  • Water is inadequate for agriculture, wildlife, and urban needs; reservoirs are extremely low; hydropower is restricted

Exceptional Drought

  • Fields are left fallow; orchards are removed; vegetable yields are low; honey harvest is small
  • Fire season is very costly; number of fires and area burned are extensive
  • Many recreational activities are affected
  • Fish rescue and relocation begins; pine beetle infestation occurs; forest mortality is high; wetlands dry up; survival of native plants and animals is low; fewer wildflowers bloom; wildlife death is widespread; algae blooms appear
  • Policy change; agriculture unemployment is high, food aid is needed
  • Poor air quality affects health; greenhouse gas emissions increase as hydropower production decreases; West Nile Virus outbreaks rise
  • Water shortages are widespread; surface water is depleted; federal irrigation water deliveries are extremely low; junior water rights are curtailed; water prices are extremely high; wells are dry, more and deeper wells are drilled; water quality is poor

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