News23ABC In-Depth


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

Posted: 5:18 PM, Dec 30, 2021
Updated: 2021-12-30 20:23:15-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — 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.

Current Drought Conditions, December

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