Voices of the Drought

In this occasional series the Valley Public Radio news team explores the impacts of the drought through the voices and sounds of Central California. We invite listeners and viewers to engage in the series by leaving comments on stories and by sharing Instagram, Facebook and Twitter posts using the hashtag #droughtvoices. Posts and photos using the hashtag may appear on the Voices of the Drought Tumblr page alongside stories the news team produces.

Hashtag: #droughtvoices
Tumblr: http://voicesofthedrought.tumblr.com/

Please send story ideas, comments and drought related information to Producer/Reporter Ezra David Romero at eromero@kvpr.org or on Twitter @ezraromero

Ezra Romero/KVPR

With the drought in California in its fifth year little is known about how people’s health is affected by it. Thousands of acres have been fallowed, lakes are experiencing toxic algae blooms and water sources for whole communities have dried up.

There have been a few small studies around public health and the drought, but now a larger two-year study is in the works by UC Riverside. To find out what the study hopes to accomplish Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero interviewed Professors Kurt Shwabe and Bruce Link.

Take a listen to the interview by clicking play above.

Ezra Davd Romero

FM89's series My Valley, My Story features first person accounts from the lives of people throughout the San Joaquin Valley. In this piece FM89’s Ezra David Romero visits the tiny town of Fairmead near Chowchilla in Madera County and meets an elderly couple grappling with water issues at their rural home. 

“My name is Joanne De Freitas. Almost two years ago our well started collapsing.”

“We had Anderson pump come out and they were able to go down a little bit further, but our pump is at 287 feet and we can’t go any further than that.”

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Tulare County is ground zero for drought. More than 2,000 household wells have gone dry leaving families without water. The county has provided tanks and water to many homeowners, but as FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports, officials says their hands are tied when it comes to providing the service to renters.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The bark beetle has killed so many trees in the Sierra Nevada that officials are worried that people visiting places like the Sierra National Forest are in danger just by being there. Last week Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency when it comes to the dead trees and is asking for federal resources to remove them safely. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports from the Bass Lake area on what the Forest Service is doing to protect visitors.

David Prasad/Creative Commons / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

The bark beetle has killed so many pine trees in the Sierra Nevada that officials are afraid dying trees could hurt hikers. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports.

As of Tuesday the popular Trail of the 100 Giants in the Sequoia National Forest east of Porterville is now off-limits to visitors.  In September, hikers and crews noticed a large amount of dying pine trees in the area and later the Forest Service deemed it unsafe.  Forest Service spokeswoman Denise Alonzo says no giant sequoias are threatened.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Weather in the Sierra Nevada can change on a whim. The sun will be out in full array and then all of a sudden a thunderstorm will let loose. With such parched and fire scorched land around many mountain communities in California that could mean a greater chance of flash floods this fall and winter. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports on how one scientist is working to prevent mountain flooding in the region.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The lack of rain and snow over the past four years has affected the agriculture industry statewide. That impact includes one of the smallest farmed creatures: the honeybee. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports that with a lack of flowers to pollinate because of weather conditions bees are struggling and some beekeepers are even leaving the state.

As Gene Brandi and I approach a colony of honeybees near a field of blooming alfalfa east of Los Banos he uses the smoke from a canister of burning burlap to calm the bees, which in turn quiets my nerves.

Ezra David Romero

Despite the ramifications of this four year drought Fresno County announced today/Monday that its farming value for 2014 increased over nine percent. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports.

The lack of rain and snow has made it a tough few years on farmers, but according to the Fresno County Department of Agriculture 2014 Crop and Livestock Report the county’s gross value has increased from around $6.5 billion to just over $7 billion. Although, the increase doesn’t necessarily mean farmers are making more money.

Ryan Jacobsen is the Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO.

Susie Wyshack / Creative Commons

The effects of drought have altered the quantity and quality of vegetables grown in Central California, but that may change for table olives. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports.

The majority of olive trees are self-pollinating. If there’s a storm during bloom time the rain washes off pollen from the flowers resulting in fewer olives come harvest. That’s what happened in 2013 and 2014. But this year weather conditions were so ideal that California’s crop is predicted to double from 36,000 tons to 67,000 tons.

Ezra David Romero

The Giant Sequoias in the Sierra Nevada are one of America’s treasures.  But for the first time in the parks history the trees are showing visible signs of exhaustion due to the drought:  thin and browning leaves. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero hikes into one of the largest groves of Giant Sequoias and finds a crew of scientists rushing to gather data by scaling the monstrous trees.

Anthony Ambrose is on the hunt in the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park, but not for deer or wild boar.