What Is a Drought and How Does It Impact Merced?

August 25, 2014 /

photo: Alyssa Castro

by Benny Escobedo

Ed Note: In January of this year, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency due to a third year of extreme drought in the state. As conservation efforts from local and state governments are growing as is speculation on the possible effects of the drought, many are just beginning to realize the severity of the problem.

Benny, 18, reflects on his own experience in realizing the scope of California’s drought and talks with three different individuals representing diverse walks of life–a student, a farm worker and a climate specialist–to get a better understanding of how folks are reacting to the drought.

I have lived in California my whole life, most of it in the heart of the Central Valley, a robust agricultural
community. Not once did I hear of a drought.

I was half asleep in a lecture hall at UC Merced when I heard the professor say something that woke me up: “California has been in a drought for at least the past 5 years.” This statement instantly grabbed my attention, and honestly it is probably the only thing I remember learning from the lecture. I started thinking about it and remembered that it had hardly rained last winter. I enjoyed the fact that it did not rain as much because it meant I was out of the house more, but I didn’t consider it beyond that.

A few days later, I mentioned the drought to my mom. She already knew about it and mentioned that the prices of certain foods might increase as a result. She was surprised that I hadn’t known about the drought until recently and encouraged me to think of the effects that this drought has had on people. I went out into the community and found opportunities to understand the drought through a wealth of perspectives. I spoke with an agricultural worker named Efrain Gonzalez, Dr. Kelly Redmond, a Regional Climatologist and Evelyn Perez, a fellow student.

I realized that the drought is an important event that affects all of our lives. Dr. Kelly Redmond helped me understand that droughts can be a part of nature’s cycle, but the drought we are in now is certainly extreme. Even though I do not experience the effects of the drought through the perspective of a farmworker like Effrain, like Evelyn I live in an agricultural part of California where water is really important and it is noticeable when it is not in abundance. Now when I see how dry the lake by UC Merced is, I think of the larger effects that the lack of water has on my region.

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